BOWLING GREEN — Scott County had just won a hotly contested semifinal game, but the Cardinals looked as shell-shocked as their opponents as they stood confused on the Diddle Arena court afterward.
Saturday was one of those days at the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls Sweet Sixteen.
After the horn sounded on a 62-59 Cardinals victory in a game that included 11 lead changes, 10 ties and what seemed like a dozen calls that had both sides of the arena enraged, players just stood there.
It wasn't clear if the game was over, because an official's whistle signaling the ball had gone out of bounds seemed to come just before the final buzzer.
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Fans were throwing things from their seats and boos rained down as armed police officers escorted officials off the floor.
That part frustrated Rockets Coach Chrysti Noble.
"Everybody was gone," she said. "There wasn't even an official at the table to talk to us."
Scott County Coach Steve Helton said he just wanted to get his team, which saw a six-point lead with 1:11 to play nearly vanish, off the court. That also happened with a police escort.
"It was an emotional time," he said. "It was the state semis and neither team wanted this to be its last game. Neither of our fan bases wanted to go home."
The Cardinals advanced to their first state championship since they won it all in 1995 behind 26 points and six rebounds from Kristen Stainback. Madisen Webb added 22 points and seven boards.
Webb's free throw gave the Cards the 57-51 lead with 1:11 to go before Jackie Alexander hit a three-pointer and then Angie Lawrence made two free throws with 44 seconds to go to pull within a point.
Lawrence had 19 points to lead Rockcastle. Sara Hammond added 17 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
"They just continually, continually, continually answered the call," Helton said. "They answered every run we tried to make."
On the next play, it appeared the Rockets had forced a turnover when Alex McKenzie threw the ball out of bounds, but a late foul was called. Replays, which officials can't consult, appeared to show she was hit in the face on the play.
She hit both free throws to make it 61-56.
Lawrence's three-pointer with eight seconds left got the Rockets within two points. Then Stainback missed the second of her free throws with 6.5 seconds left and gave the Rockets a chance.
The ball got passed around before it was bobbled — probably tipped — and bounced toward the line.
On video, it looked as though McKenzie had saved it, but the official standing nearby blew her whistle and motioned as if McKenzie had fallen out of bounds.
"I saw the ball go out and the red light go up," Helton said. "From that point on, I took it that the game was over. ... It was a crushing game for both teams."
Noble didn't blame the officiating for the loss.
"You don't make free throws, you don't block out, you don't win ball games," she said. "Rebounding was the big difference in the ball game. They had 15 offensive rebounds. We had six."
But Noble did acknowledge what every coach in the country knows: that it takes some breaks to win a title.
"We didn't get any (today), that's for sure," she said. "I don't know why. Sure wasn't any favors our way."
No. 12 Mercy 53, Rowan County 45: The Jaguars overcame a sluggish start and poor shooting by forcing 30 Rowan County turnovers to advance to the state finals for the first time since they won the championship in 1992.
Mercy missed 15 of its first 17 shots, fell behind 5-0 and trailed 7-5 at the end of the first quarter.
"We were struggling," Mercy Coach Mark Evans said. "We were missing layups and I think we got a little tight."
But the Jaguars turned to their 1-2-2 full-court press to liven up.
"We got a little uncomposed and were yelling at each other a little bit early," senior guard Ellen Sholtes said. "But we knew we'd be fine."
Rowan County Coach Scott Tackett said his team didn't capitalize on Mercy's slow start.
"We missed a lot of shots when we had a chance to get some separation," he said.
But the obvious difference in the game was Rowan's inability to deal with the Mercy press.
"I've never seen anything like it in my life," said Rowan County point guard Kaitlyn Muncy, who had eight turnovers. "I usually don't turn the ball over, but to be honest, I didn't know what to do."
Rowan got as close as seven points (46-39) with 1:01 left before the Jaguars closed them out.
Sholtes led Mercy (26-8) with 22 points and six steals.
"We never quit," Tackett said. "I'm very proud of this basketball team."