BOWLING GREEN, Ky.
Behind another balanced scoring attack, the Elizabethtown High School girls’ basketball team set up the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown many wanted to see in the state championship game.
Sophomore Erin Boley posted 20 points and eight rebounds and led four Panthers in double figures in their 71-56 victory over Clark County in Saturday’s semifinals of the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Sweet 16 in front of 3,320 fans in E.A. Diddle Arena.
Darien Huff (17 points), Rachel Warden (15) and Reauna Cleaver (12) also had big games as E’town (32-4), No. 1 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, reached Sunday’s 3 p.m. EDT final against No. 2 Butler (31-3).
E’town scored 21 points off 13 Clark County turnovers and hit 25 of 31 free throws (80.6 percent).
“I don’t think tonight was our best game, but you’re not going to be at your best every night and I understand that,” E’town coach Tim Mudd said. “But I’m really speechless about playing for another state championship. That’s a great accomplishment. I’m proud to be here.”
Lexxus Graham scored 23 to lead Clark County (27-8). She hit 7 of 10 3-point tries, tying the tournament record for threes in a game set by West Carter’s Kim Brown against Clark County in 1988.
“There were times we could have laid down, but we didn’t,” said Lady Cardinals coach Robbie Cooksey, who is Lexxus’ father. “We battled and battled … and they played their hearts out and made it a competitive game.”
Clark County trailed just 21-19 after Maddie Hamlin’s jumper in the paint with 5:33 left in the first half, but E’town closed with a 19-7 run to take control. The Panthers scored in bunches, getting 3-pointers from Huff and Warden and 3-point plays from Boley, Huff and Cleaver.
Cleaver’s 3-point play with four seconds left gave E’town a 40-26 halftime lead.
“The second quarter was the game,” Mudd said. “Rachel and Huff’s 3-balls were huge … because we were just kind of feeling our way around at the time.”
The Panthers scored 18 points off 10 Clark County turnovers in the first half.
“In the first half we turned it over too much … and that set us behind the 8-ball,” Robbie Graham said.
The Lady Cardinals pulled within eight twice in the third quarter, the latter on Elizabeth Hardiman’s basket with 1:15 left to make it 46-38, but never got closer.