Lafayette girls 'clicking' as Sweet Sixteen tips off

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMarch 11, 2014 

The last time Lafayette made it to the KHSAA Girls' State Basketball Tournament, none of the current players were born.

After 30 years, though, the Lady Generals are in. They will meet All "A" champion Glasgow (28-6) in Wednesday's first round at Western Kentucky University's E.A. Diddle Arena. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. Eastern.

Coach Allison Denton says two things stand out when assessing the strengths of her 27-3 squad.

"No. 1 has been unselfish play," Denton said. "No. 2, team and individual ownership of what's going on on the court.

"When you have players that come to you and say 'let's run this, let's do this, I'm more comfortable doing this,' they know what's going on. And there's a trust factor. That's what you want the kids to do, is to take ownership of what's going on on the court, and that takes a lot of pressure off. I've never had a team that 'owned it' as much as this group has."

Senior interior player Sarah Cooley, who scored her 1,000th career point during Sunday's 11th Region finals victory over Paul Laurence Dunbar, says the team is playing "great — I think this time of the season we are really clicking together and flowing."

Another 1,000-point producer, junior Dee Givens, leads the Generals in scoring. But Denton says just about everyone in the starting lineup has been a leader at some point this season.

"It's been different people at different times," she said. "For example, Dee's carried us points-wise for the last I-don't-know-how-many games, but she was struggling (Sunday) with her legs, not having them under her. And I told them that, and I said 'who's going to step up?' Cooley and Kiara (Pankins) both said 'we'll do it.' Ken'yale (Demus) stepped up the other night against Franklin County. Ashanti (Thomas) stepped up at other times. ... They lead in different ways at different times."

"I've got five out there that can play at once. That's one of our strengths is that, at any given time, any one of those five can put 20 up."

Cooley finished with nine points and 13 rebounds against Dunbar. Pankins, a freshman, led Lafayette scorers with 25.

Rather than a watershed moment when "team ownership" seemed evident, Denton said the quality naturally evolved from the team's personality.

"I think it's the fact that Cooley, Ashanti, Dee and Ken'yale have played together for three years and they know each other," Denton said. "And Kiara has played with them for two — eighth and ninth grade — so they're comfortable with each other.

"They really like each other, they enjoy each other and they're happy for each other's successes, and that's just a blessing."

Students and teachers have taken special notice this week by offering congratulations, decorating classroom doors, printing T-shirts and the like.

After 30 years, the Generals are back in the dance.

The last time

Lafayette's girls last appeared in the Sweet Sixteen on March 22, 1984.

The Generals beat Henry Clay 43-27 in the 11th Region championship game and entered the Sweet Sixteen at Eastern Kentucky University as the state's 12th-ranked team.

Lafayette, then coached by Brent Arnold, was knocked out in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen by 7th Region champion Atherton, which was ranked No. 4.

Generals team leaders included Victoria Allen, Eyleen Davenport, Sherry Holley, Stacy Trimble and Tracey Underwood

Marshall County won the 1984 state title.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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