Girls' Sweet Sixteen: Top-ranked E-town takes out No. 2 LCA

BOWLING GREEN — Most of the time, Lexington Christian's game flows like smooth jazz.

It has rhythm, tempo, flow.

But against top-ranked Elizabethtown's defense, the Eagles' offense was flat.

"They took us out of rhythm," Coach Jason Seamands said. "We were a frustrated bunch offensively."

In a battle of the state's top two ranked teams, Christian got behind early, rallied in the third quarter, but ultimately fell 56-50 in the first round of the Houchens Industries Sweet Sixteen.

The Panthers, who were led by Alex Jones' 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, advance to Friday's quarterfinals to face Boone County.

LCA, which came into the tournament shooting 35 percent from three-point range, made one of its first 14 three-point attempts in the first half.

The Eagles' only offense came via Kentucky commitment Sarah Beth Barnette, who had 11 of their 15 first-half points. The junior finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and five steals.

"She played her tail off both halves," Seamands said. "She was big. ... She was awesome."

But Barnette is just one of LCA's three Division I players. The other two, Courtney Clifton and Anna Martin, combined to go 1-for-12 in the first half.

Martin, who had 14 points, eight rebounds, five steals and five assists by game's end, said Elizabethtown defenders were "hard to get by. Once you get by one, you're faced with Alex Jones or another post player. They make it hard to make that pass or kick it out."

The length of E-town created problems for LCA (29-5) all game, but especially in the first half when the Panthers grabbed a 27-15 lead.

"We had no momentum at any point in the first half," Seamands said. "We had nothing to build on."

But LCA found its mojo in the third quarter and made it look like a showdown between No. 1 and No. 2. The Eagles used an 18-9 run late in the period to get within a point, 39-38.

Both times that the Eagles had a chance to grab the lead, they coughed up the ball.

"I thought, if we could get the lead, it would be one of those going-away kinds of games," Seamands said. "We couldn't get over the hump."

The Eagles shot 30.6 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from three-point range. Clifton, a Western Kentucky signee, had 11 points and three steals, but she made just four of her 19 attempts.

A 10-3 run to start the fourth quarter, including a monster three-pointer by Natalie Greenwell with 3:43 to play, gave E-town (30-2) the cushion it needed to win its 17th straight.

The sophomore guard, had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers, whose defense was the true star.

"Give E-town credit, they're really good, especially defensively," Seamands said. "We panicked a little bit offensively. This game was probably defined by us taking some bad shots."

But the coach, whose team won the 2007 Sweet Sixteen title and has won three straight All "A" Classic state championships, doesn't want his team to be remembered for just this one contest.

"This game, this fourth quarter where we lost, it doesn't define these girls and the legacy they've left at our school," he said. "We're disappointed, devastated, but when they reflect on their high school career, they should think of it as a very positive experience."