RICHMOND — Faced with a 15-point deficit midway through the third quarter, Scott County Coach Steve Helton hoped sooner or later that his squad's frenetic pace would wear down Lafayette in Friday night's 11th Region semifinals.
And sure enough, the Cardinals turned up the tempo, quickly crawled out of the 15-point hole and made enough plays down the stretch to escape with a 59-52 win over the pesky Lady Generals.
Scott County (19-10) advances to Saturday night's championship game to face Madison Central (22-9), a 67-57 winner over Bryan Station in the nightcap.
"Tournament time is all about survival, and we found a way to survive," Helton said. "We came out flat early, and we had to come together at the half, but the good Lord blessed us."
No. 15 Scott Co. 59, Lafayette 52: Lafayette had things going its way early. Coach Allison Denton's squad was able to control the tempo and dominate the glass against the smaller Lady Cardinals despite playing most of the half without senior center Shomari Kendrick, who picked up two early fouls.
Freshman Sarah Cooley picked up the inside slack with 11 first-half points and nine rebounds as Lafayette led 20-11 after one quarter and 33-23 at the break. The Lady Generals had a 24-9 advantage on the boards.
Lafayette extended its lead to 40-25 when Cooley scored off an inbounds play with 5:46 left in the third. But Scott County freshman guard Audriana Christopher started to get loose in the open court, and she got the Lady Cardinals back in the game. Her hard drive to the hole cut the margin to 43-38, Alex McKenzie followed with a three-point play and Ally Conrad hit a left-corner three to give Scott County its first lead of the game (44-43) with 1:56 left in the third.
Helton's nerves calmed once Scott was eventually able to pick up the pace.
"We've got to get it to a 94-foot game," Helton said. "Once we got the tempo in our favor, we were able to play with a lot more confidence."
Lafayette didn't roll over, pulling back in front 50-46 at the four-minute mark on six straight points by point guard Jariana Gillespie.
Helton then turned the game over to senior guard Kristen Stainback, who hit five of six free throws to reclaim the lead for the Lady Cardinals at 51-50 with 1:44 left.
"I trust her with the ball in her hands in late-game situations, and she delivered," Helton said of Stainback, who shot 6-for-22 from the floor but hit nine of her 12 free throws to finish with a game-high 22 points.
Christopher hit two more free throws to make it a 53-50 game at 1:36. After Cooley hit a short jumper to bring Lafayette to within one at 1:12, Scott County went to its four corners. McKenzie hit two free throws at 31.7 to make it 55-52, and Stainback hit the first of two free throws. Mc Kenzie grabbed an offensive rebound on Stainback's miss, and the Cardinals closed it out on the free-throw line.
Denton said her team's inability to keep the game in a half-court setting caused the game to get away from them.
"We did what we were supposed to do in the first half," she said. "But in the second half we weren't getting down the floor, and that allowed them to get shots in transition. That's what they do, and that was really the difference."
No. 22 Madison Central 67, Bryan Station 57: Early on it looked like the Lady Indians would cruise into the championship game, as they led 18-6 after one quarter and extended it to 24-7 early in the second. Bryan Station had trouble stopping the penetration of Madison Central guards Jenna Cornelison, Larryn Brooks and Erica Parks, and the Lady Defenders missed on 13 of their first 15 shots.
But the Lady Defenders settled down and ripped off 10 consecutive points to close to within seven, and they went into the locker room trailing just 29-23.
Bryan Station fought and scrapped the entire second half but never could get over the hump. After Cornelison's steal and layup gave the Lady Indians a 39-29 lead, a Marissa Prince three and Tori Clark drive cut it to four at 42-38 late in the third.
The Lady Defenders tried to make one last push when Serena Sandusky's three brought them to within 50-45 at the three-minute mark, but Madison Central once again had an answer, as Kristin Congleton and Cornelison both scored on putbacks for a 54-45 advantage at 3:42.
Cornelison, a senior, had 23 points and six rebounds to lead Central. Brooks added 20 points and seven assists and Congleton pulled down 13 boards to go with her eight points.
Madison Central Coach Robbie Cooksey couldn't say enough about Cornelison, Brooks and Parks.
"Our guard play was phenomenal," he said.
Sandusky's 19 points led Bryan Station.
Now the Lady Indians have their sights set on Scott County, the defending region champs who beat them 72-65 in January.
"They've got what we want," Cooksey said. "It's going to be a dogfight."
LAFAYETTE (19-14) — Cooley 6-12 4-6 16, Justice 3-9 0-0 7, Kendrick 2-5 0-0 4, Martin 1-7 0-0 3, Gillespie 4-9 5-6 13, Demus 1-6 0-0 3, Mynear 1-3 2-4 4, Graham 1-3 0-0 2, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-55 11-16 52.
SCOTT CO. (19-10) — Guyn 1-3 0-0 2, McKenzie 3-10 4-5 10, Stainback 6-22 9-12 22, Christopher 4-13 6-6 14, Conrad 1-4 0-0 3, Huellemeier 1-2 2-2 4, Logsdon 0-1 0-0 0, Jackson 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 18-59 21-25 59.
Lafayette 20 13 12 7—52
Scott Co. 11 12 21 15—59
MADISON CENTRAL (22-9) — Feldhaus 3-11 1-1 8, Congleton 3-8 2-4 8, Brooks 5-7 10-14 20, Parks 4-6 0-1 8, Cornelison 8-12 7-11 23. Totals 23-44 20-31 67
BRYAN STATION (24-7) — Crumbie 2-7 0-0 4, Caise 6-12 0-0 12, Prince 4-14 0-0 11, Sandusky 7-14 3-4 19, Clark 3-10 3-6 9, Crumbie 1-1 0-0 2, McCoy 0-2 0-0 0, Lambert 0-1 0-0 0 Totals 23-61 6-10 57.
Madison Central 18 11 15 23—67
Bryan Station 6 17 15 19—57