BOWLING GREEN — Montgomery County rode a big third quarter to victory in Wednesday's opening round of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen, turning back Ashland 60-49.
The Indians outscored the Kittens 18-6 in the third quarter, stretching a 30-29 halftime lead to 48-35 in Western Kentucky University's Diddle Arena.
"Our second half was definitely the difference," winning coach Janie Robinson said. "Our defense got better. The key for us was offensive rebounding because they're just a great shooting team; they're very quick to the ball. We knew they shoot a lot of threes ... so to limit them to one was key, and we did a much better job in the third."
The 13th-ranked Indians (29-6) advance to Friday's quarterfinals, where they will meet No. 1 Marion County (36-0).
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"I'm excited, because I don't think we're necessarily picked to win," said Schyler Tipton, who totaled 15 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday. "But I think we can pull an upset on them, so I'm excited."
What will Montgomery have to do to pull off the upset?
"We have to do what we do," Robinson said, "and get a little bit lucky, probably."
Erica Rogers led Montgomery with 16 points. Macie Spence added 13 and Olivia Colliver had 10.
Spence hit back-to-back buckets to trigger Montgomery's 10-0 start in the second half. Colliver, Tipton and Rogers scored a basket each.
Haley Sue Foutch, Sydney Cullop and Kaylyn Gambill each scored 10 points for No. 11 Ashland (25-7).
The Kittens shot only 29.7 percent (19-64), including 6-for-30 from three-point range.
Montgomery, pounding inside with 5-foot-9 Tipton and 6-1 Spence, and keeping Ashland honest with the outside accuracy of Rogers and Colliver, shot 57.1 percent (24-42).
"One quarter really hurt us — the third, obviously," Ashland Coach Bill Bradley said. "I thought their game plan was good — jam it inside on us, which they did a good job of. ... We knew what they were going to do.
"And they kind of rolled the dice, hoping we wouldn't hit our three-pointers. As you probably saw, they kind of left us wide open. We've hit 50 percent of our three-pointers the last three or four games. They rolled the dice and we just didn't knock them down from the outside."
Montgomery outscored Ashland 30-18 in the paint. The Indians shot 4-for-6 from three-point range.
Marion County 64, Bowling Green 43: The top-ranked Lady Knights, looking to become the first undefeated state champion since Marshall County in 1984, blew out the hometown team.
"We came out, we played really well," Coach Trent Milby said. "That was my biggest concern, was taking a week off between games. But our defense was tremendous in the full-court. We got the game going up and down."
Makayla Epps paced the winners (36-0) with 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists and five steals in 28 minutes.
"I try to tell 'em before every game 'leave no doubt in anybody's mind in the gym,'" Epps said.
Fellow University of Kentucky signee Kyvin Goodin-Rogers had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Logan Powell, a Norfolk State commitment, had nine points and seven boards.
While Marion, ranked No. 5 in the nation by USA Today, shot 48.2 percent (27-for-56), Bowling Green was 23.6 percent (13-for-55).
Diamond Marshall led the No. 5 Purples (30-5) with 15 points. Makayla Gray had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Marion used first-quarter runs of 15 and 11 points to take control from the outset.
Ahead 40-20 at halftime, the Lady Knights added another 15-point run in the third quarter.
"Like Milby said, before the game in the locker room we talked about hitting 'em in the mouth early so we could kind of rest, get ready for the next game," Epps said. "... Defense, rebound and run, which is what we've been doing pretty much all year. That transition game, it's hard for teams to keep with us."
Shelby Valley 45, Corbin 38: Brianna Fraley and Lakyn Mullins scored 15 points each as the 15th-rated Wildcats held on to win.
Mullins also grabbed nine rebounds for Shelby Valley (29-4), which sank 18 of 24 free throws.
No. 16 Corbin (27-9) was led by Sarah Ashley with 10 points and eight boards.
Shelby Valley led all the way, but nearly squandered a 22-14 halftime lead. Corbin came as close as 39-38 when Kayla Wilson made two free throws with 1:57 left.
The Redhounds didn't score again, though.