The result was the same between Franklin County and Campbell County, but the script could hardly have been more different.
The Flyers opened the year with a 21-point home rout of the Camels on Dec. 3. But in Saturday’s rematch in the quarterfinals of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena, Franklin County had to sweat it out until the final buzzer. The 11th Region champs held on for a 41-38 win as a half-court heave from the Camels fell short.
In the opening moments, it appeared as if the Flyers were well on their way to another blowout win. They executed a smothering zone defense, slicing into passing lanes to snatch four steals in the first 4 1/2 minutes and build a 12-4 lead.
But after head coach Beau Menefee called a timeout, the Camels calmed down and found their flow on offense.
Sophomore Mackenzie Schwarber led a 13-4 run that gave the 10th Region champs their only advantage of the game two minutes into the second quarter. She made two three-pointers during the run, then finished it with a jumper from the elbow to put the Camels up 17-16. She sank all five of her first-half field goals but didn’t score in the second half, only taking one shot. She finished with a team-high 12 points and 10 rebounds.
It’s really exciting because this is what we’ve worked for and now we’re going to the final four. That’s what we’ve been waiting to do and now we get the chance.
Senior Anna Arrastia hit two three-pointers for Franklin County in the closing moments of the half, and assisted on a third from Princess Stewart to send the Flyers to the locker room up 29-24. Arrastia was 3-for-3 from behind the arc, accounting for all nine of her points.
“I thought Anna with those two big threes back-to-back in the first half really gave us momentum,” said Flyers head coach Joey Thacker.
Stewart, the Flyers’ leading scorer, was just 3-for-11 from the field but hit seven of nine free throws for a game-high 14 points.
Franklin County won the rebound battle 28-21, which helped contribute to a 10-0 advantage in second-chance points.
“We knew we were gonna have to own the backboard,” Thacker said. “They missed some shots late and we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I only remember two possessions they got multiple opportunities in the fourth quarter so that was huge.”
Offense proved elusive for both teams after halftime, with each team scoring just five points in the third quarter. But the action heated up down the stretch. Trailing 39-33, Campbell’s Kylie Kramer hit a mid-range jumper and Taylor Jolly added a three to get the Camels to within one and send their student section into a fit of stomps and shouts.
But Stewart responded with a coast-to-coast drive for a layup to stretch the lead back to three.
The Camels extended the game by fouling, and the Flyers gave them some hope at the end, missing the front end of three one-and-one chances.
Campbell County, trailing 41-38, had a chance to force overtime, but Taylor Clos was called for an offensive foul on the perimeter with three seconds left.
“It kind of hurts, knowing that it came down to that offensive possession,” Clos said. “It’s kind of hard to stay positive. It’s kind of hard to say goodbye to our seniors based off of that one call.”
The Camels had one last shot after a turnover by Kindall Talley, but their Hail Mary fell short, sending Franklin County to the semifinals.
“It’s really exciting because this is what we’ve worked for and now we’re going to the final four,” Arrastia said. “That’s what we’ve been waiting to do and now we get the chance.”
Josh Sullivan 231-3225; @sullyjosh
Girls’ Sweet 16
At NKU’s BB&T Arena
6:30: Franklin Co. (30-4) vs. Mercer Co. (31-5)
8: Murray (32-1) vs. Butler (26-5)