When Tates Creek sophomore Katie Pippen turned an ankle in warm-ups before Monday's night's 43rd District tournament opener against Paul Dunbar, Commodores Coach Justin Cheatham thought bad luck had struck his team again.
Tates Creek's roster was wrecked by injury and sickness throughout the regular season, so this looked like just one more cruel blow.
"I really didn't know if Katie would be able to play," Cheatham said. "I thought, What else can go wrong?' "
As things turned out, good fortune finally smiled on the Commodores. Pippen not only played, the smooth-shooting left-hander pumped in 14 points to help Tates Creek to a 54-48 victory over Dunbar at Lafayette.
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The Commodores advance to face top-seeded Lexington Catholic in the district semifinals Wednesday night.
"Despite all they've been through this year, these kids haven't quit," Cheatham said. "They're very coachable. They came out tonight and did a great job executing the game plan offensively and defensively.
"They deserve this."
Peyton Hisel, a 6-foot-1 junior, led Tates Creek with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
She and Pippen helped break open the game, combining for 19 points in a 23-1 run that pushed the Commodores to a 31-11 halftime lead.
The key to that blitz?
"We were comfortable out there, playing good defense, looking for the wide-open shot and just having fun," Hisel said. "Having fun, that was the key."
Dunbar, which beat the Commodores during the regular season, couldn't find the basket in the first half of the rematch. The Bulldogs shot 14 percent (4-for-28).
They finally started to find the range in the second half and made a strong comeback. Cierra Muhammad was a big part of the rally as she hit four three-pointers.
Tates Creek got timely points from Oney Harrison, Lexi Whaley, Michaela Drake and Dominique Etling-Turner to keep their team in front down the stretch.
Dunbar kept whittling away at Tates Creek's lead. After Morgan McEldowney hit a three to make it 52-45, Indya Raglin's steal and three-point play pulled the Bulldogs to within 52-48 with 1:14 left.
But the rally ended there. Dunbar went cold again, and Tates Creek held on for its 10th win of the season.
"It got a little crazy there at the end," Cheatham said.
"It was a game of runs, but that's what makes it fun, especially at tournament time when anything can happen."
Muhammad led Dunbar with 14 points. McEldowney added 11.
TATES CREEK (10-19) — Hisel 8-14 5-6 22, Pippen 5-9 1-2 14, Whaley 3-8 1-2 7, Tichenor 1-2 0-0 2, Etling-Turner 1-1 2-2 4, Drake 0-2 1-2 1, Harrison 1-5 2-5 4. Totals 19-41 12-19 54.
PAUL DUNBAR (12-13) — Haney 2-11 1-2 7, Fender 2-14 0-2 4, Muhammad 4-15 2-4 14, Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Grabmayer 1-1 0-0 2, Edwards 0-2 0-0 0, McEldowney 5-6 0-0 11, Raglin 1-4 1-1 3, Parks 3-10 1-2 7. Totals 18-64 5-11 48.
Tates Creek 6 25 11 12—54
Paul Dunbar 6 5 20 17—48