BOWLING GREEN — Rowan County got more than a gentle nudge from the citizens of Morehead.
"Everyone in Morehead was like, 'You guys need to win this year. Let's do something different,'" Kaitlyn Muncy recalled after beating Breathitt County 47-39 in the first round of the state tournament at Diddle Arena.
The Lady Vikings had been to the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen three straight years and had promptly gone one and done.
In fact, every Rowan County team (all seven of them) since the first entrant in 1981 had lost in the first round.
"Losing the last two years really motivated us to win this year," Muncy said. "At school, everyone's like, 'Why don't you win a game?'"
Coach Scott Tackett laughed as his senior relayed the story.
"They just want out of school," he said.
They will get just that after beating Breathitt County.
Natasha Kissinger led the way, scoring 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Tierra Hamilton added 13 points and Muncy eight for the Vikes.
Tackett had a feeling this team would be the one to break the streak of early exits.
"There's something special going on here," he said. "This is a special, special group."
Rowan County held off a Breathitt County team that got star numbers again from Kendall Noble, who had 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.
But she couldn't do it all alone, Coach Peggy Moore said afterward.
"Vital," Moore said when asked of the need to get more scoring help for Noble. "We didn't do that at all. We've won 22 ball games this year and we've had someone step up every game, but not this game."
Henderson County 62, Butler 54: The Lady Colonels were on cruise control, taking the air out of the ball with a 17-point lead with three minutes to go.
But the Bearettes responded by scoring 19 points in less than three minutes to cut it to two points with 30 seconds to go. Henderson made four of six free throws to keep its distance.
Butler, which was led by Aareon Smith's 22 points, fell to 21-8 in their first state tournament since winning it all in 2008.
"I couldn't be more proud," Bears Coach Larry Just said. "This is a group that could've quit, but they didn't."
Henderson County (27-3), making its sixth straight appearance in the tournament, won its 18th straight game behind Ariel Barnes' 30 points. She made 16 of her 17 free-throw attempts in the victory.
Clay County 70, Anderson County 55: The Tigers were bigger and more powerful and they took advantage of those perks in a win, their 13th in a row.
"I felt like we had the better ball club and we had to go out there and take control of the game on the backboards and that's what we did," said Coach James Burchell, whose team won its first first-round game since 1994.
They did it behind incredible balance, including five players in double digits, led by Kayla Smith's 14 points and Sabrina Smith and Morgan Chestnut's 13 points each.
The Tigers shot 56.5 percent from the field and grabbed a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Bearcats fought back.
For the first time in seven years, a team from the 13th Region advanced to Friday's quarterfinals.
The Bearcats, making their first Sweet Sixteen appearance in 32 years, fell behind by 20 points in the third quarter, but kept playing and made a game of it in the fourth.
They were led by MacKenzie Cann's 20 points and Sydney Brown's 13 points.
"I can't help but praise our team for all it has accomplished this season," Anderson Coach Tony Kays said.