BOWLING GREEN — The opening game of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen was a game of runs.
Henderson County ran enough to slip past Ashland Blazer 59-55 in E.A. Diddle Arena.
The win put Henderson into Friday's 1 p.m. quarterfinals against Male.
"Great effort by our kids," Lady Colonels Coach Jeff Haile said. "We kept getting runs. We made some runs, they made some runs, especially in the first half. We told them at halftime, it's going to happen — it's going to be a game of runs. Let's get the last one."
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Kacie Wallace, repeatedly burning Ashland on back-door cuts, led Henderson with 19 points. Callie Francis had 16. DeAsia Outlaw totaled 14 points, six assists, two blocks and four steals. Maci Brown led the Colonels in rebounds with eight, adding four points. Breanna Chester dished out eight assists and had two points.
"Each of us has each other's back, and we knew that we didn't want to go home today with a loss," Wallace said. "We had unfinished business."
Ashland and Henderson also met in the opening game of last year's Sweet Sixteen, with the Kittens taking a 56-48 victory.
"It was definitely motivation since we lost to them last year," Francis said. "We just ... (wanted to) come out and show them who's actually better. So we did."
Henderson (28-2) will take an eight-game winning streak into Friday's game.
Ashland (26-7) got all its points from four players. Haley Sue Foutch led with 17 points and Alexis Robinson had 15. Shelby Gransberry had 12 points and 13 rebounds. Mykasa Robinson notched 11 points.
"They just beat us," Kittens Coach Bill Bradley said. "They were the better team tonight.
"I thought the legs really showed the second half. The coaches talked before the game, the kind of ride (Henderson) had to the state tournament. The scores were pretty bloated as far as minutes they played and all that. And our girls really had a tough grind in the district final, and the three regional games were all pretty much nip-and-tuck to the last minute."
The game of runs was most pronounced in the first quarter.
Trailing 4-0, Henderson ran off the next 13 points. Ashland answered with a 12-0 run to lead 16-13.
The Kittens led 18-17 through one quarter, but it was Henderson County on top at halftime, 29-27.
Henderson doubled up Ashland 18-9 in the third quarter, led by Francis' nine points and Wallace's seven. That made it a 47-36 game.
From there, Ashland never came closer than the final score.