The Murray Tigers lived up to their name, mauling Nelson County, 71-30, in the first round of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girl’ Sweet Sixteen at BB&T Arena Wednesday afternoon.
Murray got within reach of a tournament record for margin of victory with its 41-point decision. Sacred Heart defeated Barren County by 48 points in the 2004 quarterfinals while Southern defeated West Carter by 45 points in the first round of the 1989 tournament. Those are the only two decisions listed in the KHSAA record books.
Box score: Murray 71, Nelson County 30
Macey Turley put a running clock into effect with 6:49 left in the third quarter after hitting the second of two free throws.
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“Looking at their record, I never expected that we would jump out to such a good start,” said senior Maddie Waldrop, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds. “We missed a lot of shots in the beginning but once we started hitting layups and threes, our defense took care of them and we just ran with it from there.”
The teams combined to miss their first seven shots in the first minute and a half of the contest. Murray (27-5) broke the ice with a triple by Turley, who finished with a game-high 19 points, five assists and six boards.
Nelson County, in the tournament for the first time since 1990, missed its first eight shot attempts and finished 11-for-47 from the field, including an 0-for-17 clip from the three-point arc. Marly Walls, a junior, finished with 16 points and eight rebounds to lead the Cardinals (30-4).
“I don’t know if any team that comes to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time isn’t a little big-eyed about it,” Nelson County Coach Jacqueline Coleman said. “And I think that was evidenced by the first few shots we took. They’re shots that we normally would have hit and we were a little amped up.”
Alexis Burpo also finished with a double-double, 12 points and 12 rebounds, for the Tigers, whose size quickly became a difference-maker.
“We faced teams that are bigger than us all year long,” said Coleman. “The difference is Murray also has guards that are so skilled and talented. … Murray can go inside-outside, so we weren’t ever able to pick up and advantage in that situation.”
Murray will meet Butler, the defending state champions, in the quarterfinals on Friday. The top-ranked Bearettes ended the Tigers’ season in the state semifinals last year.
“If we wanna get to the state finals, we gotta beat the best,” Waldrop said. “So we’re gonna go into Friday afternoon’s game and hopefully our best is good enough.”