HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Despite a hot shooting Harlan County team in the first half, George Rogers Clark was able to apply their feisty ball pressure and come away with an opening round win in the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls Sweet 16 Basketball Tournament for the second straight season.
The Lady Black Bears started off by shooting over 60 percent from the field and had 20 assists on 21 made baskets, but the Lady Cards countered that by forcing 15 turnovers and grabbing 10 offensive rebounds to come away with a 70-54 victory, played at Northern Kentucky University's BB&T Arena.
Kennedy Igo had the hot hand for the Lady Cards, pouring in 22 points and facilitating with six assists while Shemaya Behanan was big in the paint, scoring 21 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
"I know we've come here to take care of business and I've come to play," Igo said.
After falling in an 8-2 hole to start the contest, it was Igo that ignited the Lady Cards charge with a 3-pointer, she’d score 12 first half points as the Lady Cards took a 30-29 lead into the half.
Harlan County shot 57 percent in the first half, but the Lady Cards dwindled that all the way down to 40 percent for the game when it was all said and done.
"First half we were a little foggy a bit and weren't executing on the offensive end and defensive end. They got some easy shots and transition defense is awful," Lady Cards coach Robbie Graham said. "Came out in the second half I thought we did a lot better of getting back on defense."
The contest was still in doubt after three quarters of play as GRC led 49-45 after three, but an 11-2 run to start the fourth helped put the game out of reach at 60-47 with 4:30 to play.
GRC hit 22-of-23 free throw attempts, including hitting all 12 attempts in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Black Bears were unable to get it under a 12-point deficit from there. Harlan County’s Blair Green, a University of Kentucky signee, was held in check on the evening, scoring 19 points and pulling down four rebounds, below her season average of 26 points and 6.5 rebounds a game.
"High school players are either really good inside players or really good outside players. With her being both we wanted to make sure everything we could to make everything tough. Whether it be a post up or a jump shot, get a hand up and challenge shots," Graham said.
The Lady Cards move on to face Elizabethtown on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
MERCER COUNTY 55, MURRAY 44
It was an ideal start for the Lady Tigers, but the defending state champion finally came to and found a way to advance.
Murray jumped out to an 8-0 lead, but the Lady Titans bounced back to take a 12-11 lead by the end of the quarter.
Things remained tight in the first half as Mercer took a 30-25 lead into halftime.
A 15-4 Lady Titan run to open up the second half proved to be the difference maker. Miss Kentucky Basketball candidate Seygan Robins got Mercer going early with 10 first half points and capped off the run with a 3-pointer to help them separate even more. Robins ended with 17 points.
The Lady Tigers kept battling and got within eight in the final minute of the fourth, but Lizzie Curtis’ 3-point attempt drew iron and Mercer secured the rebound and were finally able to close the door on the contest from there.
Mercer County will head to Friday’s quarterfinal, taking on Owensboro Catholic at noon.
ELIZABETHTOWN 62, BOWLING GREEN 41
Etown spread the wealth around in their opener against the Lady Purples as six different players scored at least seven points.
The Lady Panthers had 16 assists on 23 made baskets, led by Whitney Hay’s 20 point, nine rebound effort.
Bowling Green was bothered by Elizabethtown’s length all day as they shot 27 percent from the floor in the losing effort. Trailing by just eight after three at 46-38, the Lady Purples were outscored 16-3 in the final frame. The Lady Purples were led by Keeley Morrow’s 14 point effort.
Elizabethtown moves on to Friday’s quarterfinal to take on George Rogers Clark at 1:30 p.m.
OWENSBORO CATHOLIC 56, JOHNSON CENTRAL 46
The Lady Aces shot 51 percent from the field and outscored the Lady Eagles 34-14 in the second and third quarters to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.
Owensboro Catholic was paced by Hamman McKay’s double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, going 11-of-15 from the field.
Falling down 14-8 after a quarter of play, the Lady Aces took a 28-19 lead into the half. They’d extend out to a 42-28 advantage after three quarters of play.
Johnson Central got within eight in the fourth at 47-39 with 3:45 to play, but could get no closer from there. The Lady Eagles were led by Kelci Blair’s 11 points.
Owensboro Catholic moves on to face Mercer County, Friday at noon.