LAWRENCEBURG — Anderson County's Eriel McKee and Makenzie Cann were clutch down the stretch as the No. 2 Bearcats beat No. 5 Lafayette 63-54 Thursday night.
"That's why they're Miss Basketball candidates," Coach Tony Kays said after McKee and Cann combined to score Anderson County's last 18 points. "We want the ball in their hands, and they want it in their hands."
McKee, a 5-foot-10 senior who's signed with Morehead State, overcame foul trouble to lead the Bearcats with 25 points and four steals.
Cann, a 6-0 senior who's signed with Cincinnati, had a tough night from the field (3-for-11) but was 7-for-8 at the foul line in the last five minutes. She finished with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Defending 8th region champion Anderson County ended the regular season with a 22-4 record. McKee said the Bearcats will go into district play on an uptick after beating Lafayette. "It makes me feel really good considering they're a top-five team."
"It's nice to finish against a high-quality opponent. Lafayette is really talented and well-coached. They've got a real good shot in the 11th (Region).
"I'm hoping this will give us a jump-start going into the district tournament."
Generals Coach Allison Denton was "very encouraged" by her team's play, despite having its 11-game winning streak snapped.
"We played a pretty good game against a great team, and we made some big-time plays," she said. "There wasn't an ounce of fear on any of their faces."
Lafayette was led by freshman Kiara Pankins (21 points), junior Dee Givens (17 points, six rebounds, three steals) and senior Sarah Cooley (10 points, eight rebounds).
The Generals outscored Anderson County 12-3 in the second quarter to only trail 26-25 at halftime,
"I thought that was our best defensive half of the season," Denton said of Lafayette's trapping zone. "The girls executed what I drew up on the board."
Kays complimented Lafayette's defense.
"They gave us a lot of problems with their swarming zone," he said.
Anderson County led by eight early in the third quarter, and by six early in the fourth. But Lafayette battled back and pulled to within 51-49 with three minutes left.
The Generals had a chance to tie, but took an ill-advised shot. The Bearcats then spread the floor and pulled away thanks to sharp free-throw shooting.
Denton said Lafayette's minor miscues in the closing minutes were a major factor that she hopes her players will learn from.
"I told them from here on out, it's going to be the little things that make a difference. Decision-making. Putting teams on the free-throw line. Missing gimmes in the paint."
Lafayette closes the regular season against Caverna on Saturday at Henry Clay.
The Generals will play in the 43rd District semifinals next Wednesday against the winner of Lexington Christian-Tates Creek.
ANDERSON COUNTY 63, LAFAYETTE 54
LAFAYETTE (21-3) — Givens 17, Pankins 21, Cooley 10, K.Demus 2, Thomas 2, Nagahiro 2.
ANDERSON COUNTY (22-4) — Cann 15, McKee 25, Stewart 5, Rice 3, Avritt 8, Currens 4, Robinson 3.
Lafayette 13 12 13 16—54
Anderson County 23 3 16 21—63