High School Basketball

Dunbar girls play with purpose en route to Sweet Sixteen semis

Paul Laurence Dunbar's Jordin Fender (2) drives to the basket with Butler's Miah Casey defending in a girls' high school basketball game Friday, March 9, 2012, during the KHSAA Girls' Sweet 16 state basketball tournament in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP Photo/Joe Imel)
Paul Laurence Dunbar's Jordin Fender (2) drives to the basket with Butler's Miah Casey defending in a girls' high school basketball game Friday, March 9, 2012, during the KHSAA Girls' Sweet 16 state basketball tournament in Bowling Green, Ky. (AP Photo/Joe Imel) AP

BOWLING GREEN — Paul Laurence Dunbar's girls didn't come down to Bowling Green to enjoy the Sweet Sixteen atmosphere.

They came to win.

As evidence to their commitment, first-year coach Sarah Van Horn said her players passed Thursday on chances to swim or shop on their off day.

"We watched four hours of film yesterday," she said, "because that's what they wanted to do."

The homework must have helped. Dunbar outscored Butler in every quarter in a 70-52 whipping in Friday's quarterfinals of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA State Basketball Tournament at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Bulldogs (30-6) will play in Saturday's 11 a.m. EST semifinals. Saturday's finals are set for 9 p.m.

While it was Lakeena Parks (20 points) and Jordin Fender (19) who led Dunbar in a first-round overtime win against Boone County, the Bulldogs were led Friday by Morgan McEldowney with 21 points and Kierra Muhammad with 18.

"That's what makes us so dynamic and so deep — that we can ask different kids to take the load," Van Horn said. "Some kids have rough nights, somebody else steps up. Overall, that's what makes this team such a family and such a strong team."

Brooke Todd, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, had 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting and blocked three shots.

Parks didn't score, taking only two shots, but her nine rebounds helped Dunbar control the boards 39-27. McEldowney added seven rebounds, while Todd and Muhammad grabbed six each.

Fender finished with seven points and five assists.

"We're excited, but we're not satisfied," Van Horn said. "They came here to do a job. These kids have expected this from day one. ... They told me when I walked into the first parent meeting, 'Hey, we expect to go to state.'"

The lead was 18-11 after one quarter, and McEldowney's 16 first-half points increased the bulge to 33-22 at intermission.

"Tough start again, I think, is the biggest thing that got us behind the eight-ball here the whole game, since we kept trying to play from behind," Bearettes Coach Larry Just said. "It got tougher and tougher. They got off to a great start. They played with a lot better purpose than we did.

"We let 23 (McEldowney) get loose in the first half on us, a kid that we knew about, didn't take care of. So her 16 points, we kind of fought the whole way."

Any chance Butler might have had to rally drowned in a flood of free throws. Dunbar made 15 of its first 16 free throws and finished 27-for-35.

McEldowney made all eight of hers.

"If I see one go in, I'm really confident for the rest of my shots," she said.

Butler used a 13-4 run to cut Dunbar's 16-point lead to 53-46 midway through the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs answered with a 15-2 run, all but four of those points coming at the foul line. Muhammad scored 13 of those 15 points, going 9-for-12 at the foul line.

"This time I was a little less accurate (than usual), but I made them when it counted," Muhammad said.

Danielle Lawrence paced Butler (24-10) with 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals. Aareon Smith had 10 points and six rebounds.

Guard Cora Moore added nine points and four steals.

"We've never made it this far," said McEldowney, the only senior in Dunbar's starting lineup. "Even though no one thought we would, we knew we would. This past summer, we just felt this team was going to be great."

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