RICHMOND — With the weight of a basketball season firmly on their shoulders Monday, the Paul Laurence Dunbar girls got the job done.
The 11th-ranked Lady Bulldogs spoiled Scott County's upset bid, pulling out a 60-54 victory in the first round of the 11th Region tournament in McBrayer Arena.
"Scott County ... they played so hard, and a tough loss for them. I credit their coach, and just a great job of preparing those kids," Dunbar Coach Sarah Van Horn said. "Overall, my kids withstood yet another test. You get down. You lose a player. Things just don't go your way. And it's like, 'What else can go wrong for us?'
"And these kids just continue to battle. Now it's just surviving. And that's what we did is survive."
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Dunbar lost speedy guard Jordin Fender early in the second half, in the midst of a 16-2 spurt that Scott County used to take a 36-30 lead.
"A pretty hard ankle turn," Van Horn said. "But we'll rehab her all week, see if we can get her back for Friday."
The Bulldogs (26-6) will play Woodford County in Friday's 6:30 p.m. semifinals.
Kierra Muhammad and Shakeema Jackson paced Dunbar with 14 points each. Morgan McEldowney scored 10, Lakeena Parks and Lexus Edwards had nine apiece and Parks grabbed eight rebounds.
But Scott County battered Dunbar on the boards, 62-37.
Tereka Guyn, a 6-foot sophomore, grabbed 25 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, and scored 18 points. Iman Guy snared 11 rebounds and Mary Logsdon had nine to go with 14 points. Audriana Christopher netted 11 points and five assists.
The winners made up for some of the rebound deficit by outscoring the Cardinals 18-9 at the free-throw line and finishing plus-11 in turnover margin (22-11).
Dunbar led 23-9 in the second quarter, but the Cardinals (13-20) pulled to within 28-20 at intermission.
Then came the 16-2 run, and the game was on again.
Dunbar closed the quarter with a 7-0 rally to lead 37-36.
The lead would change hands four more times.
Scott County went up 50-49 with 1:32 left, when Guyn made two free throws.
Muhammad made one to tie at 1:23. Then Edwards stole the ball, drove the length of the floor and converted a three-point play with 54.7 seconds left to put Dunbar ahead to stay.
"I just didn't want to lose," said Muhammad, who had six assists and seven steals. "I made a turnover and I had to make up for it, and I did down the stretch."
A Christopher bucket trimmed the gap to one, but Edwards made two free throws at :37.5. Muhammad did the same at :23.4, then stole the ball and made one of two at :12.4 for a 58-52 edge.
By then, it was almost time to think about Fender's status for the next game.
"I hope she's OK," Muhammad said, "... but we'll win it for her if she can't play."
SCOTT CO. (13-20) — Guyn 18, Guy 2, Christopher 11, Logsdon 14, Conrad 0, DeFoor 9. Totals 22-68 9-17 54.
Paul DUNBAR (26-6) — McEldowney 10, Parks 9, Todd 0, Fender 2, Muhammad 14, Jackson 14, Edwards 9, Raglin 2. Totals 19-62 18-26 60.
Scott Co. 8 12 16 18—54
Paul Dunbar 15 13 9 23—60
Three-point goals — SC: 1-12; PLD: 4-18.