Few people gave the Franklin County girls’ basketball team a chance to win its fourth straight 11th Region championship before this season began. Afterall, the Flyers lost four seniors off their back-to-back state runner-up squads, including their top two scorers.
But after three ice-in-the-veins shots on Friday, they have the chance to prove their doubters wrong.
The last of those buckets, a rebound put-back by eighth-grader Patience Laster with less than 10 seconds to play, gave Franklin County a thrilling win over Lafayette, 46-45, in the 11th Region tournament semifinals at Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena.
Lafayette took its first lead since the first quarter on Caroline Bennett’s three-pointer from the corner with 48 seconds to play. On the Flyers’ final possession, Kindall Talley dribbled the clock to under the 15-second mark then drove to the basket. Her finger-roll was off the mark, but Laster was there to clean it up. Lafayette’s Tekiya Garr-Carter couldn’t sink a tough shot at the buzzer.
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“(Laster) is special,” said Franklin County Coach Joey Thacker. “What she does is, she rebounds with her feet before she rebounds with her hands. She gets herself in a position to make plays because she’s active.”
Thacker said the Flyers are playing with a chip on their shoulder.
“We don’t have the same pieces, we know that. But what we do have is a bunch of kids who are mad because they were picked seventh in the region by the Herald-Leader. ... Or it might have been ‘The Cats’ Pause.’ But regardless, I blame Josh Moore,” he said with a grin.
(Note: Moore is the Herald-Leader’s high school sports beat reporter. Franklin County was picked third in the Herald-Leader’s preseason poll of 11th Region coaches.)
Franklin County likely would not have been in position to ride Laster’s game-winning bucket to the win had it not been for two earlier last-second shots. Navaeh Carter banked home a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Flyers a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“That three-pointer really gave us a jolt,” Thacker said.
Josie Thacker got in on the dramatics as well, nailing a three-pointer at the second quarter buzzer to give the Flyers a 23-18 halftime lead.
Laster led the Flyers with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Talley added 10 points, three assists and five steals. Terri Abram had a team-high 15 points for Lafayette while Bennett and Lindi DeBilzan added 11 apiece.
“These girls are fighters,” said Lafayette Coach Allison Denton. “I’m proud of them for always fighting.”
Denton said her senior trio of Bennett, Abram and Garr-Carter has “been so special to the program.”
“They’ve been a delight to coach. And I hate it for them. They’ve helped put Lafayette’s program where it is now and they’ve passed on a lot of good character traits to the younger girls.”