A battle between Sweet Sixteen newcomers was decided at the three-point line.
Southwestern overcame Collins, 58-47, in the first round of the 58th KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen Thursday at Rupp Arena. The Warriors finished with a 6-for-17 mark from beyond the arc while Collins made only two of its 15 tries from long range.
Southwestern also had an edge at the stripe, connecting on 18 of 28 free throws compared to the Titans’ 9-for-14 mark; most of the Warriors’ attempts came toward the end as Collins tried to extend the game.
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It was the first girls’ Sweet Sixteen game in which either school played. Southwestern awaited the winner between Henderson County and North Laurel, who played in the final first-round game later Thursday.
“I still think we can get better,” Southwestern Coach Stephen Butcher said. “I got a text the other day that said, ‘Sometimes a fish outgrows its pond and they move it to a new pond so it can continue to grow.’ And so we’ve escaped the 12th Region pond and I hope we can keep growing, cause if we can keep growing, we’re not gonna be intimidated by anybody.”
Collins built a 12-8 lead through one quarter after Olivia Federle hit back-to-back shots for the Titans in the final minutes. Southwestern opened the second quarter with a four-point play — Alexa Smiddy was fouled on a made three-pointer and converted the free throw — and took a lead on a Regi Cundiff free throw its next trip down. Jeian Hayes put Collins ahead again briefly with a three-pointer, answered for Southwestern by Kennedy Harris; that was the start of a 14-3 Warriors run to close the half.
The Titans went about five minutes between the end of the second and start of the third quarter without scoring after pulling within 20-18. Southwestern was up 10 with 4:09 left in the third, 35-25, before Collins closed the period on a 10-5 run to pull within five.
Neither team scored for the first two minutes of the final quarter before Harris extended Southwestern’s lead to 43-35 with a triple. Collins went on a 6-2 run to get within four with 3:26 to play before another Harris triple swelled the Warriors’ lead to seven. The Titans never got closer than six points through the remainder.
“We made what we felt like were three good pushes or runs in the third quarter there and at the start of the fourth,” Collins Coach Sean Pigman said, “and credit to Southwestern and Coach Butcher, every time we did they moved the basketball and found Harris or different ones in the corner and they hit like three big threes right at critical times in the game, kind of like daggers for our kids.”
Senior Kallie Sheron led Southwestern with 18 points and 12 rebounds. She was 5-for-11 from the field and went 8-for-10 at the free-throw line.
Harris, a junior, had 13 points, 10 coming in the second half. She was responsible for half of Southwestern’s triples — going 3-for-6 — and had six rebounds.
“It was different shooting on that kind of court with the different lighting and stuff, but you can’t let that affect you at all,” Harris said. “That is my main role for the team, to guard and put up some shots.”