The Bulldog is out of the bag.
Ignored in the pre-season coaches' poll, the Paul Laurence Dunbar girls' basketball team continues to prove itself.
The Lady Bulldogs improved to 7-2 Tuesday, knocking off Rockcastle County 59-55 in the quarterfinals of the iHigh Fayette County Invitational at Bryan Station.
The Lady Rockets, No. 17, became Dunbar's fifth top-25 victim. Already on the list were No. 8 Ryle, No. 9 Anderson County, No. 16 Scott County and No. 21 Bryan Station.
The latter, with a 50-35 victory over Boyle County, gained a rematch with Dunbar in Wednesday's semifinals at Tates Creek. Dunbar won 49-46 last week.
"We're not real scared," said Sarah Van Horn, in her first season as Dunbar's coach. "These kids go out and battle each night. They take it one game at a time. Being underrated is fine — no one expects these kids to really do much just because of the history of Dunbar with new coaches and staff. But these kids really have a lot of talent and a lot of heart. ... They're going to have to figure out that people are going to be eyeing for them now. We're not under the radar anymore."
Morgan McEldowney, a 5-foot-11 senior, went 4-for-6 from three-point range and finished with 23 points and five rebounds to lead Dunbar.
"She's been struggling a little bit, but a huge game tonight," Van Horn said. "Rebounded and really came out and led this team to a victory tonight."
Lakeena Parks, a 5-10 junior, added 16 points and eight rebounds.
"I worry about my rebounds more than I worry about my points," Parks said. "We're real good at defense, and we try to stop the ball."
Lexus Edwards added seven points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.
The Bulldogs finished with a 36-26 edge in rebounds and outscored the Rockets 15-6 from the three-point line.
Alexis Chasteen paced Rockcastle (5-3) with 16 points and five rebounds. Katie Cowan and Michaela Hunter added 11 points each, with Hunter handing out 10 assists. Kadi Cobb totaled 10 points and five steals.
Dunbar led 36-27 at halftime and widened the margin to 47-31 in the third quarter.
Rockcastle closed with a 24-12 rush to make it close.
"My kids play hard all the time," Van Horn said. "As fast a tempo as we play, we've got to accept some mistakes sometimes. We let them battle back, Rockcastle, and give them credit for not giving up. But these kids keep battling. They keep finding ways to win."
In the nightcap, Bryan Station (5-4) prevailed despite committing 40 turnovers.
Boyle County (7-3) had "only" 23 turnovers but had plenty of other problems. The Lady Rebels were outrebounded 58-30, missed all 27 of their three-point attempts and went 5-for-14 at the free-throw line.
"It's good to win, but you want to win doing the things that are going to make you better," said Donna Murphy, coach of the Lady Defenders. "I'm just not content with it right now. Don't get me wrong, I like winning games. But I wish we did it in a different kind of fashion, where it was more positive and productive."
Serena Sandusky led a balanced attack with nine points. Victoria McCoy was among three Defenders to score eight and led all rebounders with 10.
Natalie Settle had 12 points and six rebounds for Boyle. Hannah Harris added 10 points and seven steals.
ROCKCASTLE CO. (5-3) — Hunter 11, Adams 5, Cobb 10, Al. Chasteen 16, Cowan 11, Miller 2. Totals 20-45 13-19 55.
DUNBAR (7-2) — Fender 5, Muhammad 4, McEldowney 23, Parks 16, Edwards 7, Todd 4. Totals 23-54 8-11 59.
Rockcastle Co. 14 13 10 18—55
Paul Dunbar 23 13 14 9—59
Three-point goals — RC 2-5; PLD 5-15.
BOYLE CO. (7-3) — Settle 12, Harris 10, Gill 8, Bottoms 0, Bishop 0, Richards 3, Fyfe 2. Totals 15-64 5-14 35.
BRYAN STATION (5-4) — Stennis 5, Williams 4, Sandusky 9, Frazier 8, Crumbie 2, Cozart 3, McCoy 8, Gill 8, Clay 2, Carpenter 1. Totals 19-51 12-18 50.
Boyle Co. 12 9 3 11—35
Bryan Station 15 8 17 10—50
Three-point goals — BC 0-27; BS 0-1.