Despite shooting just 28 percent, the defending 53rd District champions, the Letcher Central Lady Cougars, turned up the defensive pressure in the second half and then converted 7/9 from the charity line late to turn back upset minded Jackson City, 52-41, in the opening round of the girls’ 14th Region tournament Monday night in Hindman.
The Lady Cougars, now 16-10, advance to play Perry Central at 6 p.m. in Friday night’s semifinals at Knott Central.
LCC struggled offensively all evening. The Lady Cougars led 5-0 early and 12-11 after the first quarter, but the Lady Tigers battled back and took the lead at 19-18 on Kelsey Taulbee’s trey with 3:19 left in the first half. Taulbee’s second trey gave the Lady Tigers a 22-21 lead at the break.
Taulbee’s free throw gave Jackson City a 27-24 lead with 4:21 left in the third quarter. LCC then fired up the full court defensive pressure and forced the Lady Tigers into four turnovers that led to a 13-0 run over the next three minutes, pushing LCC to a 37-27 lead with 1:05 left in the third. In that 13-0 run, sophomore Shelby Hall scored six of her team-high 17 points. Hall also pulled down five rebounds and came up with five steals.
The Lady Cougars led 37-32 heading into the final quarter and continued to struggle offensively. After Ashlee Combs’s free throws cut the lead to 41-36 with 5:13 left to play, the Lady Cougars turned up their defense another notch and forced Jackson City into six turnovers in its next dozen possessions. Shelby Hall’s layup with 2:01 left to play kept LCC in front 46-39.
In the final minute, senior guard Cheyanne Stidham converted six straight free throws to seal the victory. Stidham, who had 11 points in the first half, finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Kristina Bentley, again coming off the bench, added 12 points and eight rebounds. Senior Sara Baker wound up with six points.
The Lady Cougars lost the rebounding battle 39-37, but won the game at the free throw line converting 17/21 shots.
Ashlee Combs’s 14 points led the 17-12 Lady Tigers. Kelsey Taulbee finished with 10.
Letcher Central 47
Knott Central 41
The Lady Cougars converted nine-of-10 free throws in the final 2:19 to defeat the Lady Patriots 47-41 February 27 for their fourth straight 53rd District champion- ship. The Lady Cougars were also the regular season district champs and, for their efforts, all five senior starters, Sara Baker, Courtney Brock, Kristina Bentley, Kim Meade (injured) and Cheyanne Stidham, were named to the All-53rd District Team.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half with the Lady Cougars shooting 33 percent — making just 7/21 field goal attempts, while the Lady Patriots managed just 21 percent — making only 4-of-19 field goal attempts.
LCC did a little better in the second half and wound up shooting 35 percent by making 12 of 34 field goal attempts.
KCC wound up hitting 13 of 48 field goal attempts for 27 percent.
LCC trailed 2-0 in the early seconds of the game, but never again. The Lady Cougars led 9-3 after the first quarter, 19-15 at the break, and 28-21 after three quarters.
Senior guard Sara Baker’s trey early in the final quarter pushed the Lady Cougars’ lead to 31-21 before the Lady Patriots battled back to close to within two points, 38-36, on Kristen Waugh’s trey.
Sophomore guard Shelby Hall, shaking off a one-for-four effort from the charity line in the first half, calmly made four straight, and then senior guard Cheyanne Stidham stepped up and made four straight, and LCC’s lead was 46-41 with 45 seconds left. Hall then sealed the win by making one-of-two free throws in the final seconds.
Hall finished with 11 points, and Stidham wound up with a game-high 23.
Senior forward Kristina Bentley, who was injured three weeks ago, was medically cleared to play earlier in the week and contributed on both ends of the floor with seven points. Her five rebounds and three blocked shots helped the Lady Cougars win the rebounding battle 40-29.
Waugh led the 21-7 Lady Patriots with 17 points. Eight-grader Mayshala Higgins finished with 12 points.
Senior Kelly Adams and Sara Baker finished with three points each for the 15-10 Lady Cougars.