High School Basketball

Girls’ regional roundup: Thirteen teams punch tickets to NKU on Saturday

Harlan players, coaches and cheerleaders posed for photos after defeating Harlan County, 59-52, in the finals of the girls’ 13th Region tournament Saturday, March 4, 2017 in Corbin, Ky.
Harlan players, coaches and cheerleaders posed for photos after defeating Harlan County, 59-52, in the finals of the girls’ 13th Region tournament Saturday, March 4, 2017 in Corbin, Ky. jmoore@herald-leader.com

Jordan Brock scored 22 of her 29 points in the second half to lead Harlan past Harlan County, 59-52, in the 13th Region girls' basketball championship game Saturday night at The Arena.

Brock went 10-for-10 at the free-throw line inside the final three minutes to lift the Dragons past the Black Bears, against whom they'd previously lost three times this season. Harlan won its second straight 13th Region title, repeating as champs for the first time since 1999.

“That’s when I was born, so it’s really sweet to come down here and do that,” said Brock, who earlier this season was named 13th Region Player of the Year and a Miss Basketball candidate. She’s signed with Tennessee Tech.

Kaylea Gross, a junior, scored 29 points for Harlan County, which sought its first state-tournament berth. Blair Green, a Black Bears junior who's committed to the University of Kentucky, scored 15 points.

Dragons Coach Derrick Akal thought Harlan had positive moments in each of its previous meetings with Harlan County this season. It was able to string enough momentum points together to vanquish its county rival in the finals for a second straight year.

“Tonight I thought we competed for 32 minutes,” Akal said. “ … Each timeout, that’s what we talked about. And obviously, man, they exceeded my expectations.”

2017 St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen bracket

Clark County survives

Clark County defeated Mason County, 56-53, in overtime to take the 10th Region championship crown from the favored Royals at Harrison County.

Mason County, ranked 11th in latest Cantrall Ratings, took three shots around the rim in the waning seconds of overtime but couldn’t get anything to fall. Briana McNutt, a Royal senior, had a game-winning drive to the basket waved off because of a travel call with one second remaining in regulation.

Freshman Kennedy Igo had 22 points to lead the No. 18 Cardinals, who reached the state tournament for the first time since 2014 and the 11th time overall. Clark County will open against Harlan in the first round at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Read more: How some new faces helped Clark County emerge as a contender

Mercer County threepeats

Mercer County became the first girls’ team to win three straight 12th Region titles in 38 years after defeating Lincoln County, 83-67, in the finals at Pulaski County.

The only other program to ever string together more than two consecutive 12th Region girls’ titles no longer exists. Laurel County, which split into North Laurel and South Laurel, did it twice: 1977-1979 (also winning state titles each season) and 1982-1985.

The No. 4 Titans will meet Boyd County, which defeated East Carter in the 16th Region finals Saturday, in the first round at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Read more: Titans’ tough schedule prepared it for postseason run

Nelson County upsets E-town

Nelson County defeated Elizabethtown, 69-56, in the 5th Region finals to reach the state tournament for the first time since 1990 and the fifth time in program history.

Marly Walls had 32 points (she went 16-for-17 at the free-throw line) to lead the No. 25 Cardinals, who had beaten Elizabethtown earlier in the season but were considered underdogs to the No. 5 Panthers. Shyla Calbert and LeLe Linton scored 15 and 10, respectively, for Nelson.

Nelson County will play Murray, the champions out of the 1st Region, in the first round at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The third-ranked Tigers defeated Marshall County, 51-32, at Murray State on Saturday.

Read more: Former East Jessamine coach stepped up when Nelson County needed a new leader

Butler, Sacred Heart advance in Louisville

Teri Goodlett and Molly Lockhart scored 13 points apiece to lead Butler in a 50-42 victory over Bullitt East in the 6th Region finals at Valley High School.

Sacred Heart defeated Manual, 59-52, in the 7th Region finals later at Valley to set up a rubber match with Butler in the state tournament. Kiki Samsel had 16 points for the No. 6 Valkyries, who knocked off Butler at home on Feb. 8, about two weeks after losing to the No. 1 Bearettes in the Louisville Invitational Tournament.

Butler lost to only two Kentucky teams this season. Male, the other one, was knocked out by Sacred Heart in the 7th Region semifinals.

Paintsville skirts by rival

Paintsville knocked off its biggest rival, Johnson Central, 39-36, in the 15th Region championship at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville.

The Tigers were ranked third in the region behind Johnson Central and Shelby Valley coming into the tournament but knocked off both teams by a combined four points en route to their first state tournament appearance since 1932. That was the last season girls’ basketball was sanctioned by the KHSAA until the 1974-75 school year.

Paintsville will play Simon Kenton in the first round at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The Pioneers, ranked eighth in the state, defeated Grant County, 69-22, in the 8th Region finals at Oldham County.

East vs. West

Knott County Central defeated Leslie County, 49-44, in the 14th Region finals to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2005.

The Patriots’ first-round opponent will be Henderson County, representing the 2nd Region for the fourth straight season and the 11th time in the last 13 years. The Colonels, rated 16th in the state, beat Webster County 54-49 in their regional final.

The two schools are separated by 329 miles, the largest distance between any two first-round opponents in the field.

Three champs to go

The 3rd Region, 4th Region and 9th Region championship games are scheduled for Sunday.

Grayson County and Apollo meet in the 3rd Region finals at the Owensboro Sportscenter while Cooper and Holmes will play in the 9th Region championship at BB&T Arena in Highland Heights, the site of the state tournament. Those champions will play one another in the first round at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Monroe County, ranked 15th in the state and this season’s All “A” Classic state champion, is favored against Russell County in the 4th Region finals. That winner will play Franklin County, which defeated Lafayette in the 11th Region finals Saturday night in Richmond, at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Read more: Franklin County takes third straight 11th Region crown

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps