Paul Laurence Dunbar took care of business on Wednesday, demolishing Tates Creek, 63-28, in the semifinals of the 43rd District tournament at Lexington Catholic.
Dunbar, the top-seeded team in the field and fourth-best among 11th Region girls’ teams in the latest Cantrall Ratings, jumped out to a 9-0 lead and the Commodores never threatened a rally.
Senior Autumn Herriford scored her 1,000th career point for the Bulldogs on a three-pointer from the corner which put Dunbar ahead 51-19 with 4:01 left in the third quarter. The game was paused to recognize Herriford’s accomplishment; she hit two more triples after that before taking a seat for the final 10 minutes of game action. She finished 5-for-5 from beyond the arc and with 21 points.
“It just feels good,” Herriford said of joining the 1,000-point club. Teammate Mashayla Cecil, a junior, joined those ranks earlier this season; she finished with 20 points versus Tates Creek.
Dunbar earned its second-straight berth to the 11th Region tournament under second-year head coach Nick Runyon. Last year, he said, his team was satisfied with just making the tournament field after posting a losing record in the regular season. This season the Bulldogs want to be considered contenders and could make the road easier for themselves with a win over Lafayette in Friday’s district championship game.
“With the teams that are expected to be the one seeds out of their districts, it’s really super important this year that you get a one because I think there’s a couple of teams that are probably heads and shoulders above in the region,” Runyon said. “And we want to be considered one of those teams, so in order to be at that level we’ve got to take care of business Friday and we’ve got to go out and win a couple of games in the region to get ourselves in position to hopefully do something special.”
Dunbar and Lafayette split their head-to-head meetings in the regular season. The status of Lafayette star senior Kiara Pankins – a 2,000-point scorer who’s also grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds in her career – is uncertain heading into that contest; she’s been sidelined with a concussion in Lafayette’s previous seven games.
Runyon knows the Generals, who’ve won four straight 43rd District titles and had won 33 straight games against their district mates before Dunbar ended that streak on Jan. 24, are gonna be a tough out regardless of whether Pankins sees the floor.
“She’s their team leader, she’s their heart and soul,” Runyon said. “But without her, they’ve started to put the pieces together and play pretty fast. .... We know we’re gonna have our hands full, with or without Kiara, it doesn’t make a difference.”
Herriford anticipates a close contest.
“They won when we were at Lafayette and we beat ’em at Dunbar so I guess we’re gonna find out what happens here,” she said. “We’re gonna go out, play our hardest and hopefully cut down some nets.”
Girls’ semifinal: Paul Laurence Dunbar 63, Tates Creek 28
Tates Creek (6-25) — Baker 14, N. Winn 7, Shalash 5, Armisha 2, L. Winn 0.
Dunbar (19-10) — Herriford 21, Fullwood 8, P. Humphreys 2, Cecil 20, Cotton 4, Franklin 2, Stevenson 2, Hill 4.