Despite a rash of injuries, Henderson County showed Saturday it still might be the one.
Behind a scrappy defense and the play of senior DeAsia Outlaw, the Lady Colonels rallied for a 48-44 victory over Manual in the Raatz Fence/O’Shea’s Classic at Mercy.
No. 2 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, Henderson County (18-1) remained undefeated against Kentucky competition and ran its winning streak to 13. Its only loss came to Evansville (Ind.) Mater Dei, 52-47, on Dec. 16.
Coach Jeff Haile downplayed the significance of his team’s No. 2 ranking.
“We’re down in Western Kentucky … and I haven’t seen a lot of the top teams,” he said. “Rankings and I don’t get along sometimes, but we’re proud of where we are.”
Outlaw, a 5-foot-10 senior, scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the second half and added nine rebounds. Freshman A’Myia Hayden pitched in nine points and six rebounds.
But defense is the staple for the Lady Colonels, especially with 5-foot-11 sophomore Alisha Owens lost for the season with a knee injury and 5-9 junior MiKayla Gilbert out for 2-3 more weeks with a knee injury. Henderson County forced Manual into 27 turnovers Saturday.
“Our bread and butter is our press and our man-to-man defense,” Haile said. “We get after people and double-team them and run-and-jump them. That’s the way we have to play because we lack size.”
Tonysha Curry scored 13 points to lead No. 17 Manual (16-5). Krys McCune, a 6-3 junior, posted 14 rebounds and four blocks but managed just three points on 1-of-3 shooting.
“That’s a big problem,” Manual coach Jeff Sparks said of McCune getting only three shots. “We were on our guards about that today, and they were just trying to do too much.”
Manual led 19-9 late in the first quarter before Henderson County rallied within 27-25 at halftime. The second half included four ties, with the Lady Colonels taking the lead for good, 43-41, on Outlaw’s jumper with 2:00 left.
Down 47-44, Manual had a chance to tie but Aricka Prentice missed a 3-point try from the right corner with 9 seconds left. Outlaw sank 1 of 2 free throws with 7.8 seconds left to seal it.
Haile said Outlaw was the difference in the second half.
“She’s been a slow starter all year long,” he said. “You have to give her a boost and some confidence, and we moved her to the free-throw line from the corner and she was able to put up some points for us.”
Henderson County (18-1) – Carter 3, Francis 2, Wallace 8, Brown 3, Lander 2, Chester 4, Hayden 9, Outlaw 17.
Manual (16-5) – Te. Curry 6, Howard 4, MacBlaine 2, To. Curry 13, Prentice 6, Johnson 8, Schaaf 2, McCune 3.
3-point goals – Brown; Prentice, Johnson.