LCCHS took a regular-season ending seven-game winning streak into last week’s 53rd District tournament in Hindman, but during this critical time the Lady Cougars failed to play at their usual level of desire and hustle and, as a result, struggled in winning their opening game against Jenkins on Feb. 23, and then fell to the Lady Patriots in the district championship game on Feb. 25, ending an eight-game winning streak.
Knott County Central 50
Letcher County Central 42
For the second straight game, the Lady Cougars were outperformed on both ends of the court — losing in both rebounding and shooting the basketball.
Losing those two battles cost the Lady Cougars an 8-game winning streak and a third straight district championship.
In losing to KCCHS, the Lady Cougars led just one time, 2-0 on Julie Cornett’s layup in the game’s opening minute. After Cornett missed a pair of free throws midway of the opening quarter, KCCHS took advantage of LCCHS’s defensive lapse for quick run-outs to build a 12-5 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Junior forward Sasha Pike broke out of her scoring slump and ripped LCCHS for 9 first-half points — including three layups. Pike finished with a game-high 16 points and her game- high 15 rebounds severely limited LCCHS’s offensive efforts in ‘oneand dones’ on the offensive end.
KCCHS stuffed the Lady Cougars’ offensive efforts through three quarters by winning the rebounding battle 24-10 in the first half, and finishing with a huge 45- 29 overall advantage.
KCCHS led LCCHS 22-15 at the half and 39-24 as the Lady Cougars’ shooting woes continued. LCCHS made just 7-of-24 field goal attempts in the first half and only 2-of-12 in the third quarter.
Junior Erica Meade, who could not seem to buy a basket through the first three quarters, picked up her team with her defense in the fourth quarter and led the Lady Cougars’ charge that cut a 19-point deficit, 43-24 at the 7:07 mark, down to 47-42 with 51 seconds left to play.
The Lady Patriots then steadied themselves and made 3-of-4 from the charity line to hold off the Lady Cougars in winning their first district title since 2008 — and ending the Lady Cougars’ 2-year reign.
Meade led the 18-9 Lady Cougars with 12 points. Julie Cornett added 11 and Lauren Thomas chipped in with 7 points. Haley Whitaker finished with 6 points and Vannah Breeding wound up with 4. Keisha Collins scored 2 points.
For the game, LCCHS shot just 30 percent on 16-of-52 field goal attempts while KCCHS converted 19-of-35 attempts for a blistering 54 percent.
Paige Slone scored 13 points for the 14-15 Lady Patriots. Kelsie Jacobs finished with 10 points and Keisha Perkins added 6.
Letcher Central 63
The second-seeded LCCHS Lady Cougars used some outstanding free throw shooting in the final minutes to withstand a strong second-half rally by third-seeded Jenkins to outlast the Lady Cavaliers in Feb. 23’s 53rd District semifi nals at Knott County Central.
The Lady Cougars were sharp offensively and defensively in the game’s first 6 minutes. After Whitney Creech’s trey tied the game 3-3 in the opening minute, LCCHS went on a 12-0 run that was fueled by its defensive pressure that forced 5 turnovers in 6 possessions. Blake Caudill’s short jumper with 3:50 left in the first quarter ended LCCHS’s run and allowed JHS to close to within 15-5.
LCCHS led 23-9 at the end of the first quarter and both teams then began to struggle offensively.
In the second quarter, LCCHS’s poor field goal shooting and foul problems prevented the Lady Cougars from taking advantage of Jenkins’s mistakes. Jenkins was forced into 15 turnovers in the first half and LCCHS was guilty of just 6.
LCCHS ended a nearly 6-minute scoring drought with Julie Cornett’s free throws for a 25-11 lead at the 4:35 mark in the second quarter.
At the half, Jenkins was still in the game — trailing just 30-16.
With both teams saddled with foul problems in the second half, Jenkins’s bench play was the difference maker. The Lady Cavs’ subs outscored LCCHS’s subs 26-6 and, with the Lady Cavs not making mistakes (only 2 second half turnovers), JHS closed to within 37-34 on Mercedes Boggs’s jumper with 1:29 left in the third quarter.
Haley Whitaker, who had scored just 4 total points, steadied the Lady Cougars with a pair of free throws to give LCCHS a 39-34 lead heading into the final quarter.
Whitney Creech, a seventhgrader, led the Lady Cavs’ charge down the stretch, scoring nine of her team-high 14 points. Creech’s pair of free throws cut LCCHS’s lead to 40-38 with 6:40 left to play and her layup at the 3:05 mark cut LCCHS’s lead to 47-45.
Lauren Thomas’s 3-point play pushed LCCHS’s advantage to 50- 45, but more importantly, Jenkins’s Blake Caudill fouled out on the play. Caudill came off the bench to spark the Lady Cavs in the second half with 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Whitaker, who finished with 13 points — 10 in the final 10 minutes, and Vannah Breeding took charge for LCCHS down the stretch.
Whitaker’s layup pushed LCCHS’s lead to 52-45 and then Whitaker and Breeding combined to score LCCHS’s final 13 points. Breeding and Whitaker converted 8 straight free throws in the final 53 seconds and LCCHS avoided the upset.
Breeding led 18-8 LCCHS with a game-high 20 points. Breeding and Thomas led the Lady Cougars with 7 rebounds each and, for the first time in many games, LCCHS lost the rebound battle 39-34 to the Lady Cavs.
Jenkins finished with a 12-13 record and graduates one senior, Sarah Corbett, who is headed to Pikeville College next fall. Corbett fouled out midway of the last quarter with 2 points. Mercedes Boggs and Whitney Creech led JHS with 14 points each. Kayla Stambaugh added 10 points and 8 rebounds.
Erica Meade finished with 10 points for LCCHS and Julie Cornett wound up with 9. Lauren Thomas and Keisha Collins chipped in with 5 points each and Kelli Quillen scored 1 point.