RICHMOND — Everybody in Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena Sunday afternoon could have guessed who would get the ball for Franklin County in the closing seconds of the girls' 11th Region championship game against Henry Clay.
With the score tied 56-56 and :08 left, Dasia Kilbourne took a pass on the right side of the lane, drove toward the basket and was fouled as she tried to shoot. The 5-foot-7 junior calmly cashed two free throws with :05 left to put her team ahead 58-56.
"We were going with Alysheba," Coach Joey Thacker said, comparing Kilbourne to the 1987 Kentucky Derby winner. "She was spectacular the whole tournament. She's the one who got us through the race, so that's what we were going to do."
Henry Clay still had a chance to tie. After getting the ball to midcourt and calling a timeout with :03 left, they got the ball to senior guard Destiny Carter, who drove the left side of the lane, but missed the layup as the final buzzer sounded.
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Franklin County's players swarmed the court in celebration of the program's first region title since 1980. Under the Henry Clay basket, Coach Eric Sanford sought out Carter and consoled her.
No. 14 Franklin County (26-6) will play No. 21 Allen County-Scottsville (26-4) in the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen Thursday night in Bowling Green.
Kilbourne, as she did in the Flyers' victory over Madison Southern in the semifinals, dominated by taking the ball to the rim. She had 26 points against Henry Clay, including 11 of 14 free throws, and was named tournament MVP.
"I knew I had to go to the rim. I had to help carry my team on my back," she said. "But they helped me too. We all came together strong."
Sanford described Kilbourne as "a match-up problem. She's strong enough to take you inside, but she can also take you off the dribble and has a nice shot. She took over the game."
Kilbourne's teammates delivered at crunch time, too.
Savannah Courtney, a sophomore, had a four-point play that gave Franklin County a 53-48 lead. She didn't hesitate to launch the three-pointer from the left corner. She made it, was fouled and hit the free throw. "That was a very happy moment for me," she said. "I was so excited when it happened."
Malaka Frank, a junior, contributed six points and eight rebounds while playing with a bruised knee. Rebecca Cook, a sophomore, had eight points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Princess Stewart, a sophomore, hit a clutch shot that gave the Flyers a 56-50 lead. She finished with seven points and five rebounds.
No. 10 Henry Clay rallied to tie it on a three-pointer and layup by Carter sandwiched around a free throw by T'Laya Lyvers. But Kilbourne's heroics ended the Devils' 18-game winning streak.
Carter had 19 points, and Hannah Young 10. Lyvers had eight points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. Jordyn Jackson added eight points and seven rebounds.
This was Henry Clay's first region finals since it won the title in 2008.
"We took a rough one today, but we're here to stay," Sanford said. "I wanted this so bad for our seniors because they've worked so hard to get this program back on track."
Franklin County figures to be a force for the next few years. Its top nine players are underclassmen.
Thacker said the Flyers' youth can occasionally cause problems, especially in close games. "But they kind of lean on each other, like they did today, and that's how we got this deal worked out."
Franklin Co. 58, Henry Clay 56
Henry Clay (27-4) — Carter 19, Young 10, Lyvers 8, Jackson 8, Coney 7, Richmond 4.
Franklin County (26-6) — Kilbourne 26, Frank 6, Stewart 7, Arrastia 3, Cook 8, Courtney 6, Hogan 2.
Henry Clay 10 14 20 12—56
Franklin County 15 12 14 17—58
All-tournament: Dasia Kilbourne (MVP), Rebecca Cook, Malaka Frank, Princess Stewart of Franklin County; Destiny Carter, T'Laya Lyvers, Kennedy Coney of Henry Clay; Dee Givens, Ashanti Thomas of Lafayette; Kristen Hayes, Kelley Freeman of Madison Southern; Peyton Riddle of Scott County; Chelsey Ford of Woodford County; Rachel Blake of Lexington Catholic; Hayley Hunt of Model.