For the second night in a row the Franklin County girls’ basketball team stared elimination in the face, and for the second night in a row the Flyers refused to fold. Junior guard Kindall Talley donned the hero’s cape as Franklin County edged Simon Kenton 51-49 in the quarterfinals of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA girls’ Sweet Sixteen at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena on Friday.
One day after surviving a three-overtime marathon against Russell County, the Flyers found themselves trailing by one with 24 seconds left in the game. That’s when Talley nailed a cold-blooded three-pointer for a 2-point Flyers lead. After the Pioneers tied it with 14 seconds to play, Talley drove the length of the floor and drew a foul with four seconds left, sinking both free throws. Ally Niece’s three-point heave at the buzzer came up short, sending the Flyers into Saturday’s semifinal round.
“A great game again,” said Franklin County Coach Joey Thacker. “We didn’t have to stay ‘til after Johnny Carson went off the air today though, so that was good.”
Talley rallied the Flyers back from the brink late in the first half. With Franklin County trailing 18-11, she drained her first three-pointer. Moments later when they fell behind by six, she drained her second, and Franklin went on to trim the Simon Kenton lead to 24-23 at the half.
Talley said she didn’t think twice about firing off her go-ahead three in the fourth.
“I just knew I had to make it,” she said. “This tournament I haven’t really felt any pressure. You just have to step up and make the shot and help us keep going. We’re just not ready for it to end.”
Thacker said Talley’s importance can’t merely be measured by raw numbers.
“You can tell she’s big and burly and bench presses about 285, but she’s a gamer and she’s done it all her life,” he said. “I kept telling her, ‘You’re gonna have to make a big one,’ and she did. I can’t say enough about her.”
Talley finished with a team-high 16 points to go along with five rebounds, hitting 7 of 8 free throws and 3 of 7 shots from the perimeter.
Franklin County senior guard Princess Stewart, a Xavier commit, only scored six points — but four of them were crucial. With the Flyers trailing by two, she picked off a pass and drove for a game-tying layup, then nabbed another steal and hit two free throws for a two-point lead.
Simon Kenton outscored Franklin 30-18 in the paint, but the Flyers forged an 11-5 advantage on second-chance points.
“That was the game,” said Simon Kenton Coach Jeffrey Stowers of the disparity. “We just didn’t do enough to win.”
Niece nearly willed the Pioneers to victory single-handedly. She scored a game-high 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting.
Thacker said the Flyers’ 24-point loss to Simon Kenton early in the season was motivation.
“We told our kids they handed us our heads in January,” he said. “I had three or four of my colleagues watch that film and they emailed me back and said, ‘Good luck in the district because that may be all you get to do.’ … All we wanted was a chance.”
The Flyers avenged that early season spanking on Friday. On Saturday, they’ll look to earn their second straight trip to the state championship.
Girls’ Sweet Sixteen
At Northern Kentucky University
Murray 65, Butler 56
Mercer Co. 58, Clark Co. 47
Franklin Co. 51, Simon Kenton 49
Henderson Co. vs. Holmes, (n)
6:30 p.m.: Murray vs. Mercer Co.
8 p.m.: Franklin Co.-Simon Kenton winner vs. Henderson Co.-Holmes winner