Henderson County advanced to the semifinals of the Republic Bank/Coca-Cola Louisville Invitational Tournament by dominating Male 47-28 in girls’ high school basketball action Friday at Bellarmine.
In a game that pitted two of the state’s top-scoring teams, it was defense that stole the show. Namely, from the Colonels, who benefited from 31 Male turnovers and 22.9 percent (8-of-35) shooting. Henderson County, the second-ranked team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, shot 32.7 percent (17-of-52) and committed 21 turnovers itself. But, the Colonels enjoyed a 28-8 advantage on points off turnovers and made 10-of-21 3-point shots to earn the win.
Despite, the team being the ninth-highest scoring team in the state (66.1 ppg), Henderson County coach Jeffrey Haile said his team has had its fair share of struggles on offense.
“We get into those games,” he said.
The Colonels (20-1) started the game with an 8-0 run, and Male (16-2) hardly challenged the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs, the eighth-highest-scoring team in the state (66.8 ppg), never found a rhythm on offense. They found open looks inside, but no one was able to convert the layups.
It got to the point where Male coach Champ Ligon had exhausted all of his timeouts with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter with his team trailing 30-15. Out of the timeout, Henderson County’s Maci Brown hit a 3-pointer to make it an 18-point game.
That would start the Colonels outside assault. Six of their last seven baskets were from beyond the arc. Brown, who finished with 18 points, hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“We came out very nervous,” said Brown, who hit on 6-of-13 3s. “So, at first, we were just not running our plays. We were scattered and everywhere. Once we finally got settled in, it was a lot better.”
After Male’s final timeout, Haile noticed that Male’s players — coming back less than 48 hours after overcoming a 17-point deficit to beat Manual in overtime — had lost their legs.
“I could tell they were getting tired,” he said. “By then, I think their fatigue got us the open looks.”
Ligon admitted his kids were coming off an “emotional” second-round win, but he refused to use that as an excuse.
“We were completely prepared for everything they were doing,” he said. “We worked on it in practice, and to just go out and lay an egg, that’s not good enough.”
The No. 16 Bulldogs’ talented freshmen guards, Ciaja Harrison and Emelia Sexton, combined to shoot 0-for-12 with Harrison accounting for their three points on fourth-quarter free throws. I’liyah Green led the Lady Bulldogs with nine points.
Henderson County will face No. 12 Butler in the 10 a.m. semifinal Saturday at Bellarmine.
Henderson County (20-1) – Carter 9, Francis 3, Wallace 3, Brown 18, Lander 2, Chester 2, Outlaw 10.
Male (16-2) – Harbison 3, Owens 5, Jackson 4, I’l. Green 9, In. Green 3, Calvert 4.
3-point goals – Carter 2, Francis, Wallace, Brown 6.