Southwestern shot itself into the 58th KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen semifinals Friday with a display of long-range marksmanship that overwhelmed North Laurel, 75-50.
The Warriors went 12-for-25 from three-point range, including an 8-for-12 clip in a decisive first half. The 12 threes tied for the third-most for a team in the state tournament. Mercer County holds the top mark of 16, set in last year’s finals.
“I told them back when we started that if we took 30 threes a game that’s fine with me, because I believe in them,” Southwestern Coach Stephen Butcher said. “Tonight that was just the perfect storm and it happened.”
The barrage began with Alexa Smiddy’s three three-pointers in the first quarter.
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“I’ve been in the gym after almost every practice getting up shots and trying to get better,” said Smiddy, who admitted she was frustrated by misses early in the season. She missed only one of her five attempts Friday.
The Warriors’ last three makes in the first period were all threes, two by Smiddy and one from Kennedy Harris as Southwestern opened up an 18-9 lead.
“I think before subs came in, I think they were 12-for-17 from three,” said North Laurel Coach Eddie Mahan Jr. “A team shoots that well and then we have 22 turnovers? That’s a recipe for a major disaster and that’s what happened today. That’s on me. That’s something I should have had us better prepared for.”
In the second quarter, four of Southwestern’s five made field goals were threes. A Kallie Sheron trey put the the Warriors up 15, their largest lead to that point, with 47 seconds left until halftime.
It only got worse for North Laurel from there as the Warriors extended the lead in the second half to as many as 32.
“In the third quarter, coach just said we’ve got to come out with the same intensity, because if we come back and relax it gives them motivation to keep coming,” said Jenna Wood, whose six points came on two threes. “So, from the start of the third we just kicked it into high gear and went from there.”
Sheron led Southwestern with 16 points, followed by Smiddy with 14 and Harris with 11. North Laurel’s Hailee Valentine led the Jaguars with 15 points. Raegan Hubbard added 14.
“Defensively, we were phenomenal for a long stretch of that game,” Butcher said. “Everybody that played for the Warriors tonight contributed in one way or another.”
In Saturday’s semifinals Southwestern will get Male, a Louisville team the Warriors have not faced in Butcher’s five seasons.
“I know that they’re purple and gold. I know their mascot’s the Bulldogs. Um, I know that they’re really good, or they wouldn’t be here,” Butcher said. “I know that if we don’t bring our ‘A’ game and we don’t bring the same mentality we had tonight, then we’ll (just) be a final four team.
“But we’re going to show up. We’re going to come to play and we’re going to come to battle and we’re going to throw our best punch and hope it lands.”