RICHMOND — Franklin County had come up on the short end of a pair of barnburners with Madison Central during the regular season, but Friday night the 24th-ranked Lady Flyers turned the tables.
Franklin County made clutch plays and key free throws in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 69-59 win over the No. 10 Lady Indians.
"We've had three Sweet Sixteen-type games against Madison Central, but we would always shoot ourselves in the foot in the fourth quarter," Franklin County Coach Joey Thacker said. "Our kids have grown up tremendously since then."
"I think we wanted this one more than they did," said senior guard Andrea Howard, who led the Lady Flyers (25-7). with 19 points.
Franklin County will face No. 9 Scott County on Saturday for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen next week in Bowling Green. Scott County knocked off defending region champion Lexington Christian 62-48 in a rematch of last year's 11th Region finalists.
"We just tried to stay alive," Scott County Coach Steve Helton said. "It wasn't a game of great beauty, but we wanted to just find a way to win."
For the Lady Flyers, it will be their first trip to the region championship game since 1985.
"This just means so much for our program," said senior guard Andrea Howard, who led Franklin County with 19 points. "But we want to try and get one more and go to Bowling Green."
The Lady Flyers and Lady Indians went back-and-forth throughout, as the game saw 11 ties and 14 lead changes. Franklin County led by two (27-25) at halftime only to see Madison Central take a 45-44 advantage into the final period.
That's when the Lady Flyers' senior combo of Howard and Chelsea Craig came through. Howard hit a pair of foul shots to give Franklin a 58-57 lead and then split a pair on the Lady Flyers' next two possessions to make it 60-57 with a minute remaining.
Madison Central struggled to get good looks late, either turning the ball over or rushing on uncontested shots. That allowed Franklin County to close it out at the free-throw line, as the Lady Flyers hit their final eight foul shots and were 29-for-41 overall. Craig hit all seven of her attempts and is now 14-for-14 in the region tournament, while Howard was 9-for-12.
"We told them before the game that we were going to score 60 points and we'd hit 30 free throws," Thacker said. "We felt that with our dribble-drive (offense) we could get to the line, and we shot the daylights out of them."
Freshman Larryn Brooks had 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals to lead Madison Central (28-2), which saw its 16-game winning streak come to an end.
"It was a hard-fought game like always with them, but we made some costly turnovers and missed a couple of easy buckets down the stretch," Madison Central Coach Robbie Cooksey said.
Franklin County was still buzzing about the boys' controversial loss to Henry Clay in the 11th Region semifinals on Thursday.
"It's been a tough day around Franklin County High School," Thacker said.
"We wanted to come out and play for those guys," Howard said. "They lost a heartbreaker."
The Lady Cards led virtually the whole way in the nightcap, although University of Kentucky signee Sarah Beth Barnette almost single-handedly kept LCA within striking distance until late in the third quarter.
Barnette scored all but four of her team's first-half points as LCA trailed just 23-19. But Scott County turned the tables in the third quarter behind its guard tandem of Madisen Webb and Kristen Stainback. Webb went 7-for-11 from the floor and 8-for-8 from the free-throw line for 22 points and also grabbed five rebounds and dished out eight assists. Stainback chipped in 17.
Barnette's two free throws brought LCA to within eight, 48-40, with five minutes remaining, but the Lady Eagles wouldn't get back to within single digits the rest of the way. Barnette finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, as she and Kelli Rinehart (10 points, 10 rebounds) accounted for all but seven of LCA's points.
The Lady Cards (22-6) now must gear up quickly for Franklin County.
"You've just got to just be like an old duck and shake your tail feathers and get ready to play," Helton said. "We've done the back-to-back plenty of times before."
franklin co. 69, madison central 59
MADISON CENTRAL (28-2) — Feldhaus 2-9 1-2 6, Sizemore 4-7 1-2 9, Brooks 5-14 5-8 16, Parks 0-1 2-2 2, Cornelison 3-9 4-5 11, Ciolek 4-11 2-2 11, Farris 0-2 0-0 0, Busch 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 20-55 15-21 59.
FRANKLIN CO. (25-7) — Hack 1-6 7-8 9, Mayes 7-16 0-2 14, Craig 4-6 7-7 15, Rivers 0-0 0-0 0, Howard 5-9 9-12 19, Mello 0-0 4-4, Timmons 3-4 2-8 8, Brown 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-42 29-41 69.
Madison Central 11 14 19 15—59
Franklin Co. 14 13 18 24—69
scott co. 62, lexington christian 48
SCOTT CO. (22-6) — Guyn 3-8 3-6 9, McKenzie 4-5 0-0 10, Stainback 7-16 2-2 17, McKee 0-1 0-0 0, Webb 7-11 8-8 22, Conrad 1-3 0-0 2, Huellemeier 1-3 0-0 2, Christopher 0-1 0-0 0, Guy 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 15-18 62.
Lex. CHRISTIAN (22-7) — Barnette 10-20 8-13 31, Eastham 0-2 0-0 0, Kelli Rinehart 3-9 4-6 10, Cox 0-3 0-0 0, Mitchuson 0-2 2-3 2, Bundy 2-8 0-0 5, Kristen Rinehart 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-45 14-22 48.
Scott Co. 13 10 23 16—62
Lex. Christian 12 7 16 13—48