BOWLING GREEN — Rockcastle County has six seniors with hopes of a state championship trophy.
A pair of those seniors willed the top-ranked Lady Rockets to a 55-52 come-from-behind win over pesky Madison Central on Thursday night in the first round of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls Sweet Sixteen.
Rockcastle, which hasn't lost to an in-state opponent all season, trailed by four points going into the fourth quarter before Louisville signee Sara Hammond scored eight of her team's next 10 points to keep it close.
"I knew I was going to carry my team on my back and I was going to take them all the way," said Hammond, the state's first female McDonald's All-American.
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"I wasn't going to let them down. ... I knew I didn't want that to be my last game in high school."
So Hammond gave her team a boost and then fellow senior Angie Lawrence drove the baseline and flipped in an off-balance shot to put the Rockets up for good 54-52 with 28 seconds to go.
"I didn't want to lose; I wanted to win and I knew it was a situation where I needed to be the goat or the hero so I stepped up and made that shot," said Lawrence, who had 10 points and five steals for the Rockets.
Rockcastle County advanced to Friday's quarterfinals where it will meet Clay County, a 61-48 winner over Owensboro Catholic.
Rockcastle (33-1), which won its state-best 24th straight game, was led by Hammond, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds. Shanlee Burton added 11 points.
Madison Central, making its first-ever Sweet Sixteen tournament appearance, had three chances to go ahead in the final 22 seconds, but three times the shot rimmed out.
First it was Heather Hinkle's shot from the left corner, then Jenna Cornelison's jumper from the top of the key, then Hinkle's attempt at a putback.
"Our last shot didn't fall," Coach Robbie Cooksey said. "That's all it was. ... We were this close to making history again and beating the No. 1 team."
Behind sophomores Ashton Feldhaus and Larryn Brooks, the Indians grabbed a six-point lead late in the third quarter, but Rockcastle came clawing back behind Lawrence and Hammond.
Feldhaus had 18 points, including three three-pointers, and Brooks had 17 points, four assists and three steals for the Indians, who had their eight-game win streak halted.
"I'm so proud of them," Cooksey said. "Coming in I think (the ratings) said there were 10 teams better than us and if there's 10 teams in this field better than us, I'd like to see them. I'd like to play them next year."
The Madison Central coach said she doesn't believe the Indians' first trip to Diddle Arena will be their last trip.
"We're going to be fine," Cooksey said. "I'm not always one on predictions, but I think we can make it back in the next two years."