Even though Monroe County entered Friday’s All “A” Classic quarterfinals as the No. 14 team in the state, just five slots behind Murray in the Dave Cantrall rankings, the Falcons knew many in the state didn’t take them seriously.
A 60-57 win over the defending All “A” Classic and 1st Region champion serves notice that Monroe County is for real.
“That was championship tournament action at its best right there,” Monroe Coach Dwayne Murray said. “This bunch is hungry because we’re underrated a lot, which that’s fine. I don’t like having the bull’s-eye on our back.”
Junior guard Ashley Gearlds’ steal as Murray tried to work a game-tying play with nine seconds left helped seal the victory.
“I knew the clock was winding down, so I had to get up on my girl and I had to give it all I could in those last seconds,” Gearlds said. “The ball was just right there. I had to go for it.”
With a senior-laden squad led by seniors Reagan Turner and Ashlee McGeorge, flying under the radar will no longer be an option.
McGeorge battled through a hip injury to outperform Murray standout Maddie Waldrop in the post. The Campbellsville commit scored 12 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to Waldrop’s five points and 10 boards. Waldrop, coming back in the last few weeks from an ACL tear suffered last year, has signed with Tennessee-Martin.
“We knew she was physical. We knew she was tough,” Murray Coach Rechelle Turner said of McGeorge. “We talked in the scouting report about the things she was going to try to do to us. And she did those things today. They just had a will to win. Every time we made a run they had an answer.”
McGeorge left the game with about three minutes left in the third quarter with what her coach said was a hip issue. She also suffered it in Wednesday’s game against Holy Cross.
“It pops in and out. That’s why she left the bench and had to go back to the locker room,” Murray said. “She’s a very tenacious player. There’s no quit in her.”
McGeorge returned 30 seconds into the fourth quarter and scored the next two Falcons buckets to turn a 44-44 tie into a 48-44 Monroe lead with six minutes left.
Murray was able to cut the deficit to one three times down the stretch, with the last run coming on junior guard Macey Turley’s basket to make it 58-57 with 23 seconds left.
However, Monroe junior Kelsey Johnson made each of her free throws on the subsequent foul to extend the lead to 60-57 and set up Gearlds’ steal.
“It’s a great win for our program today,” said Murray, whose team next faces Trimble County in Saturday’s semifinals. “Now, we’ve got to move on to our next opponent tomorrow. A lot of times when you come off a big win like this, you have a letdown. So we’ve got to really talk about being focused tomorrow and being hungry because we want to play on Sunday in the championship.”
For the Tigers, Friday’s loss sends them back to work on their goal of trying to make another deep run in the Sweet Sixteen.
“Life’s about challenges and adversity and it’s what you make of them,” Turner said. “The difference between this and getting beat in Northern Kentucky is that you’ve still got the season left. You’ve still got the opportunity to come back, work hard and improve yourself.”
Friday’s other games
Leslie County 61, Nicholas County 47: Freshman guard Lexy Meyers scored 32 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and went 13-of-15 from the free throw line as the Eagles held off the tenacious Lady Jackets for a semifinals berth.
Meyers hit four of her five three-pointers to open the scoring and stake Leslie to a 12-4 lead midway through the first quarter. Nicholas County trailed by as many as 13 early, but rallied on its own three-point shooting prowess to tie the game on consecutive threes by sophomore forward Allison Myers and senior Grace Kiskaden.
Leslie pushed the lead back to seven at halftime, but Nicholas rallied again early in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 33-32 on another Kiskaden three-pointer and free throws by Allison Howard and Autumn Martin. Moments later, Meyers struck again with her final three-pointer and another bucket to push the lead to 40-32. Nicholas would not seriously threaten again.
“We knew it was going to be a game of runs,” Leslie County Coach Mark Collett said. “A lot of times early when you’re shooting as well as we did, you’re like ‘oh, we need to get a big margin,’ because can we sustain this? Can we shoot that well the whole entire game? … We didn’t make a field goal in the fourth quarter, so having that cushion early went a long way for us.”
Trimble County 43, West Carter 27: The Lady Raiders settled into their offensive rhythm in the second period and turned a 6-5 deficit into a 26-10 halftime lead as they pulled away from the cold-shooting Lady Comets.
Trimble had only three scorers, seniors Shelbe Black with 18 points amd Kaylee Clifford with 16 and sophomore Bailey Duke with nine, but it was their team defense that won the day. West Carter hit 11 threes in its opening-round win Wednesday. Trimble held them to 0-for-10 behind the arc Friday.
“Offensively, we picked things up, but golly, our defense, I can’t ask for much more,” Trimble Coach Kerrie Stewart said. “We’ve got a special group that I’m just blessed to be a part of.”
Harlan 43, Crittenden County 21: The Lady Rockets had no answer for Harlan’s Jordan Brock as the Tennessee Tech commit scored 31 points in a game that was never close.
Brock is used to teams in the 13th Region keying on her, but no one from Crittenden could stay in front of her.
“Usually I don’t get a lot of those pull-up jumpers against teams at home and that’s really what Coach and I work on most of the time,” Brock said. “It was a relief to be able to go in there and just hit the shots I’ve been working on.”
At Frankfort Convention Center
Noon: Monroe Co. (21-2) vs. Trimble Co. (15-3)
1:30 p.m.: Harlan (18-5) vs. Leslie Co. (18-3)