Girls' Sweet 16: Casey seizes moment

BOWLING GREEN — Randy Salyers likes to talk to his team about opportunities and seizing them.

On the first day of Casey County's first practice this season, the coach told the Rebels not to settle for being 12th Region runner-up again.

"We talked about how we had an opportunity to do things that no other team in Casey County girls' basketball history had done," Salyers said. "We had an opportunity to make it to the state tournament."

They grabbed that opportunity and it has led the Rebels to their latest and greatest opportunity yet: a first trip to the Houchens Industries Sweet Sixteen semifinals.

They earned it with a 54-44 victory over Simon Kenton Friday at Diddle Arena, the Rebels' 12th straight win.

"These kinds of things only happen so many times and they had to seize this opportunity," Salyers said.

After trailing early, Simon Kenton grabbed a 28-25 lead at the half behind star Chelsea Tolliver's 16 points. The senior finished with 28 points.

The Rebels made adjustments at the half, including putting Nicole Coffman on Tolliver, and were able to hold the Pioneers without a field goal for more than 10 minutes in the second half.

Simon Kenton shot just 19.2 percent in the second half and Casey County shot 40 percent.

Coach Jeff Stowers said the main thing he told his team to do was keep Casey County off the free-throw line, but that plan didn't go so smoothly.

The Rebels shot 39 free throws and made 27 of them, including 20 free throws in the pivotal fourth quarter.

Simon Kenton shot just 12 free throws in the loss. The Pioneers had three players foul out.

"We missed a few assignments and gave up some easy layups and things like that," Stowers said. "When they make layups and then get free throws on top of that, it makes for an easy game for them."

Lauren Hatter scored 15 points for the Rebels. Coffman and Megan Pittman added 13 points each, with Pittman also contributing 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.

Hatter said the team did what it was asked and tried to seize the opportunity to do something special.

"My senior year's been my best year so far," she said. "Going to the final four, it's the most exciting thing to happen."

Elizabethtown 70, Boone County 54: The top-ranked Panthers opened the tournament against Lexington Christian, the team rated No. 2 in the state.

After a big win like that, Coach Tim Mudd worried that Elizabethtown might have a letdown.

No chance. Instead, the Panthers used a lightning quick 25-3 run to put the game away long before halftime, holding Boone County to just 13 percent shooting in the first half.

"With the maturity we have on this team, the leadership from our seniors, they did a real good job of not letting that happen," Mudd said.

E-town had a 38-16 lead at halftime.

"That's a daggone good basketball team," Boone Coach Nell Fookes said. "They have so many weapons, so much experience."

Alex Jones and Terra Lucas each had 14 points for the Panthers, who won their 18th straight and advanced to the semis for the fourth time in school history. Jones also added seven rebounds, as did Adelaide Luckett, who had 10 points. Dorian Downs added 13 points.

Heather Sandlin led the Rebels with 13 points.

Henderson Co. 64, Ohio Co. 36: A 26-3 run in the first half gave the Colonels a substantial lead that the Eagles could never overcome.

Late in the first half, Henderson led by as many as 23 points behind guard Ariel Barnes, who had 13 points at the half, already more than her season average of 12.3 points a game.

The Eagles (26-6) came out of the locker room and cut the Henderson lead to 12 points, but the Colonels (24-5) didn't seem fazed. Instead, Olivia Fruit hit four three-pointers in the third quarter to extend the lead.

Fruit finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. Barnes added 15 points and seven assists and Alyse Poindexter had yet another double-double with 13 points and 10 boards.