RICHMOND — Lafayette's young'uns and Madison Central's veterans have won their way into the girls' 11th Region finals on Tuesday night.
No. 21 Lafayette, without a senior on its roster, survived a tough fourth quarter and beat Franklin County 66-55 in the region semifinals at Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena on Saturday.
"For their youth, they played really well," Coach Allison Denton said of her Generals. "They never looked afraid to me. I've had other teams that had a look of fear and kind of folded. I didn't see that today."
No. 11 Madison Central, led by seniors Larryn Brooks and Ashton Feldhaus, held off No. 23 Paul Laurence Dunbar in their semifinal. The Indians, who won the region in 2011, avenged a loss to Dunbar in last year's region title game.
"They took us out of our dream last year, so this was a little payback. It's sweet," said Brooks, who had 29 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Lafayette, which hasn't been to the Sweet Sixteen in 29 years, is on an eight-game winning streak since it lost to Madison Central 66-61 on Feb. 4.
Lafayette 66, Franklin County 55: The Generals looked in control when they had a 27-14 halftime lead, and a 44-31 advantage with five minutes left.
But things began to unravel for Lafayette when 6-foot-2 sophomore Ashanti Thomas (12 points, six rebounds, six blocked shots) fouled out.
Franklin County chipped away, and after Lafayette's 5-11 junior Sarah Cooley (seven points, 10 rebounds) fouled out, the Flyers pulled within 57-51 with almost two minutes left.
But the Generals held on by hitting 17 of 24 free throws in the fourth quarter, led by Ken'yale Demus going 7-for-8.
"I've been playing here for six years, since the seventh grade, so I'm just trying to hold the team together, have 'em on my shoulders and lead them," Demus said.
Sophomore Dee Givens had 24 points, seven rebounds and four steals for Lafayette. Eighth-grader Kiara Pankins added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Franklin County was led by Dasia Kilbourne's 13 points. Raven Timmons and Rebecca Cook had 11 apiece.
Denton said her team has done a good job of focusing on the task at hand.
"In my opinion, you can't look at who your opponent is, and you can't look at the score. You have to go out and perform and execute your game plan because your mind can wander if you start worrying about other things."
Madison Central 55, Dunbar 48: Brooks, showing why she's a Miss Basketball finalist, was adept at getting to the basket and sniping from the outside (she had three three-pointers).
"She's as good as it gets," Coach Robbie Cooksey said of his 5-5 point guard who has signed with Indiana.
Dunbar tried to pressure Brooks to use her left hand, "but she did a nice job with it. We gave up too many points to her," Coach Sarah Bridenbaugh said.
The 6-2 Feldhaus, a Butler signee, had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Shadae Bosley, a 6-2 junior, had eight points and seven rebounds.
Feldhaus and Bosley did a good job sealing off the inside on defense, something the Indians didn't do when Dunbar beat them in mid-February.
"In the regular season they got to the hole on us so many times. Tonight we knew we had to stop their penetration and guard the three," Cooksey said.
Madison Central didn't stop Dunbar's three-point ace Shakeema Jackson in the first half. She hit four shots from behind the arc, but only one in the second half. She finished with 17 points.
Lexus Edwards had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs. Jordin Fender had nine points. Lakeena Parks added six points and six rebounds.
Madison Central sealed its win by hitting six of eight free throws down the stretch.
Dunbar was hit hard by injuries and illness this season, losing key players for long stretches. In late January the Bulldogs were 9-10, but they rallied to win eight of nine to reach the region semifinals.
"This team has been through a lot, and I'm proud of what they've done," Bridenbaugh said.
Madison Central 55 Paul Dunbar 48
PAUL DUNBAR (17-12) — Jackson 17, Edwards 13, Parks 6, Fender 9, Muhammad 3.
MADISON CENTRAL (28-4) — Brooks 29, Feldhaus 12, Bosley 8, Hinkle 6.
Paul Dunbar 9 14 16 9—48
Madison Central 10 16 14 15—55
Lafayette 66, Franklin Co. 55
LAFAYETTE (21-12) — Thomas 12, Givens 24, Pankins 10, K.Demus 7, Nagahiro 4, Cooley 7, S.Demus 2.
FRANKLIN COUNTY (23-11) — Timmons 11, Kilbourne 13, Cook 11, White 8, Frank 9, Ziegler 3.
Lafayette 12 15 10 29—66
Franklin County 9 5 12 29—55
Madison Central vs. Lafayette
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: EKU's McBrayer Arena
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com