BOWLING GREEN — Johnson Central gave Letcher County Central a bad case of deja vu Thursday.
Bailey Daniel's layup with 5.5 seconds left gave Johnson Central a 62-60 victory in the first round of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen.
Letcher's season thus ended the way it began — with a gut-wrenching loss to the Lady Eagles.
Way back on Dec. 1, Johnson Central dropped Letcher 53-51.
"What a great example of heart and competitiveness on behalf of these young ladies," Johnson Coach Darrin Rice said after Thursday's win in E.A. Diddle Arena. "I'm so very proud of them. They didn't quit. They didn't play real well early. A new experience for all these girls.
"But the fourth quarter, they really showed a lot of grit and a lot of determination."
The Eagles will meet Mason County, a 63-43 winner over Muhlenberg County, in Friday's quarterfinals.
Depth played a role as Letcher divided all its minutes among six players. Johnson Central had 10 players log six minutes or more and used 11 in all.
"We kind of felt like the pressure and the fatigue would be an issue over the course of the game," Letcher Coach Dickie Adams said. "And I feel like it was, particularly over the last three or four minutes. I thought we handled the game plan about as well as we could. ... Johnson Central made some tough shots down the stretch."
Daniel led the winners (22-11) with 26 points and five rebounds. Included in her total were five fourth-quarter free throws.
"I knew I had to step up and hit them if we wanted to go on," Daniel said after the Eagles' first win ever in a state tourney. "It was just something we've never done as a school, and it was nice to be able to step up and put those in for my team."
Ali May added 11 points for the Eagles.
Letcher (18-11) got 25 points and five rebounds by Kristina Bentley. Courtney Brock and Cheyanne Stidham scored 13 points each.
The Cougars led most of the game, going up by eight points in the third quarter.
Stidham made one of two free throws with 32.5 seconds left for a 60-58 Letcher lead.
Johnson tied it when Lauren Salyer sank a pair of free throws at :17.6.
Paige McPeek then stole the ball and got it to Daniel for the game-winning layup.
After a timeout, Letcher got the ball to Stidham for a last shot, but her desperation heave went out of bounds.
Mason County 63, Muhlenberg County 43: Leading 7-6, the Royals went on a 13-0 run to open a 20-6 lead and never looked back.
"I'm just proud of the girls," Coach Piper Lindsey said. "I thought they played great from the start, especially early. Our defense was really kicking. They had a great first quarter."
Whitney O'Mara and Jordan Frodge had 14 points each as the Royals (22-11) won their eighth game in a row. Maddie Boone and Briana Littleton added 10 points each, with the latter dishing out six assists. Briana McNutt grabbed a game-high seven rebounds and had four points.
Trailing 32-18 at halftime, Muhlenberg (20-11) scored the first seven of the second half to halve the deficit.
"But they came right back at us and made some shots when they had to," said Coach Mike Harper, whose Mustangs would come no closer. "They shot the ball real well. Just the way the game went. We just couldn't recover from that start, really."
MaKayla Sampson led Muhlenberg with 13 points and four rebounds. Bailee Harney was next with 12 points.
"We knew they were going to make a run," Lindsey said. "We gathered ourselves. Basically, we told the girls 'take a deep breath, it's a long game.' ... We weathered it and were able to take shots right back at them."
Graves County 52, Simon Kenton 43: Graves County converted 23 of 26 free-throw opportunities in its first-round win.
The Lady Eagles (27-5) advance to Friday’s quarterfinals, where they will meet Allen County-Scottsville.
Simon Kenton outrebounded the Eagles 36-27, but went 7-for-22 at the free-throw line.
Bailey Hawkins led Graves County with 18 points. Alyssa Barnard totaled 17 points and seven rebounds. Hawkins sank nine of 10 free throws, while Barnard was 7-for-8.
Simon Kenton (27-5) was led by Allison Niece with 18 points. Maggie Bosse added 12 points and nine rebounds.