BOWLING GREEN, Ky.
Clark County girls’ basketball coach Robbie Graham has the Lady Cardinals in the final four of the state tournament for the first time in 23 years. The way he sees it, why not go even farther?
Junior post Sandra Skinner had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Clark County shot well for the second consecutive game in defeating Marshall County 45-37 on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Sweet 16 at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Lady Cardinals (27-7) advanced to the semifinals at 9 tonight against Elizabethtown, No. 1 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings. The Panthers defeated No. 3 Anderson County 58-37 in their quarterfinal.
Clark County, which is back in the semifinals for the first time since a state runner-up finish in 1991, will be an underdog in the next round, but Graham likes his team’s chances.
“Our goal all year was to get here,” he said. “I told the girls once we won the (10th Region), I’m foolish enough to think we can come and win four games. … We’re halfway there.”
Graham said he reminded his team there is no clear favorite like Marion County in 2013, which steamrolled the field en route to a 39-0 record last year, when “everybody was playing for second.”
“We’ve seen about everybody play in the state, and we think we’re a good basketball team,” Graham said. “We feel like we can be right there. I know this team or that team has been ranked high all year, but all that goes out the window.”
A day after making 10 3-pointers and shooting 62 percent in a 79-70 victory over Corbin, Clark County shot 53.6 percent from the floor, including 6 of 8 by Skinner.
Sydney Anderson scored nine of her 11 points for Clark County after halftime. She had five straight points early in the fourth quarter in a 14-2 run spanning the final two periods that gave the Lady Cardinals a 39-30 lead.
Meanwhile, the Lady Marshals (31-6) shot 32.6 percent and made only 3 of 14 3-point tries. They were 6 of 14 at the free-throw line.
Michaela Manley led Marshall County with 12 points.
Coach Joseph Simmons said his team’s full-court pressure was effective — helping force 19 Clark turnovers — but the Lady Marshals’ struggles on offense prevented them from setting up the press as much as they wanted early on.
“We couldn’t make a shot and couldn’t make a free throw,” he said. “That really sums it up.”
Simmons noted that his team held Clark County to 34 fewer points than it scored against Corbin.
“If you’d have told me before the game that we’d hold them to 45 points, I’d have said we’d have won the game,” he said. ” … You can’t shoot 33 percent in the state tournament and expect to keep advancing, but I couldn’t be more proud of a group of girls. … Thirty-one wins is pretty special.”
It was Marshall County’s third consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 and state-record 22nd overall.
“When I left the locker room, I told our underclassmen that you have the chance to go to the state tournament all four years of your high school career,” senior Toni Fehrenbacher said. “I’m proud to say I went three of my four years, and that’s going to be a big accomplishment I remember forever.”