HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – After blowing a 12-point lead and having to endure three overtimes, the Franklin County High School girls basketball team found the toughness needed to keep its season alive.
The Flyers closed the third overtime with an 8-1 run to beat Russell County 72-67 on Thursday in the first round of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet 16 in front of 3,987 fans at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena.
Russell County scored first in all three overtimes, but Franklin County didn’t panic as it relied on the experience that comes with reaching the Sweet 16 for the third straight year.
“The last thing we put on the board for our keys to the game is, ‘You don’t beat you,’” Flyers coach Joey Thacker said. “We tried a couple of times, really hard. We gave it a valiant effort. … But they’re used to winning, and that counts for so much this time of year.”
The game tied for the longest in Girls Sweet 16 history, matching Clay County’s 48-44 triple-overtime victory over Clark County in the 1989 championship game.
Kindall Talley and Princess Stewart both scored 20 points to lead the Flyers (31-5), who will face the Simon Kenton-Paintsville winner in Friday’s 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal.
Kaitlyn Coffey posted 21 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals to lead Russell County (26-9), which was in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993.
“That was one of the better games I’ve ever been involved in,” Lakers coach Craig Pippen said. “It was a boxing match back and forth. Hats off to Franklin County. They did an excellent job of executing down the stretch. The ball bounced their way a couple of times, and they deserved it.”
Franklin County led 46-34 late in the third quarter, but Russell County chipped away and took a 51-50 lead on Coffey’s free throw with 45 seconds left in regulation. Rebecca Cook’s free throw with 9 seconds left forced overtime.
Stewart scored at the end of the first two overtimes to keep the Flyers alive, making a layup with 6 seconds left at the end of the first and a jumper with 30 seconds remaining in the second.
“To blow the lead set all of us back, but we couldn’t point fingers at anyone,” said Stewart, a senior who has signed with Xavier University. “We had to point them at ourselves because we allowed the 12-point lead to blow. Our mindset was, ‘We’re not giving up.’”
Madelyn Preston’s basket gave the Lakers a 66-64 lead in the third overtime, but it was all Franklin County from there. Talley’s 3-pointer gave the Flyers the lead for good, 67-66, with 3:22 left. Talley then sank four free throws in the final 35.4 seconds to seal it.
“I was real proud of our ability to make big shots,” Thacker said. “There were several times when we were really with our backs against the wall and we had kids step up and make plays.”
Henderson County 63, Knott County Central 53: With top scorer and rebounder Alisha Owens sidelined by an injury, the Colonels got 18 points apiece from sophomore Alyssa Dickson and freshman Emilee Hope to beat the Patriots.
Owens, a 5-foot-11 senior, suffered a knee injury Saturday in the Colonels’ victory over Webster County in the Second Region final. Henderson County coach Jeff Haile said the preliminary diagnosis for Owens was an ACL injury, although a final MRI result has not been received.
“She will not play in this tournament,” Haile said.
But Dickson (averaging 7.0 points per game) and Hope (6.3 ppg) picked up the slack as No. 17 Henderson County (28-5) advanced to face the Holmes-Grayson County winner in Friday’s 8 p.m. quarterfinal.
“It was just a total team effort,” Haile said. “Everybody came up at some point in time and made a shot or got a steal. You hear that all time, but you can go down to each player and somebody came in and did something. And what got me is they did it at crucial times in the game to help us win the ballgame.”
Knott County Central (28-7) led 35-30 on Alexis Slone’s layup with 4:37 left in the third quarter, but Henderson County responded with a 19-4 run. Dickson’s layup capped the surge that gave the Colonels a 49-39 lead with 59 seconds left in the quarter.
The Patriots never got closer than six points in the fourth quarter. Allie O’Hair, Jada Higgins and Slone scored 12 points apiece to lead Knott County Central.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
FRANKLIN COUNTY 72, RUSSELL COUNTY 67, 3 OTS
FRANKLIN COUNTY (31-5) – Kindall Talley 20p, 4a, 3s; Princess Stewart 20p, 9r, 4a; Rebecca Cook 9p, 3s; Brooklynn Miles 7p, 6a; Savannah Courtney 10p; Emily Jordan 6p.
RUSSELL COUNTY (26-9) – Amelia Ackerman 10p; Kaitlyn Coffey 21p, 9r, 6a, 4s; Madelyn Preston 9p, 7r; Addison Loy 16p, 6r; Lashaya Carman 7p, 10 r; Jaylen Elmore 4p.
HENDERSON COUNTY 63, KNOTT COUNTY CENTRAL 53
KNOTT COUNTY CENTRAL (28-7) – Allie O’Hair 12p, 10r; Jada Higgins 12p, 6a, 5r; Hannah Hollifield 2p, 6r; Kristen Waugh 11p; Alexis Slone 12p, 5r; Keara Mullins 2p; Breann Harrington 2p.
HENDERSON COUNTY (28-5) – Jalee Carter 8p; Alyssa Dickson 18p, 4r; Emma Lander 8p; Mary-Kate Daniel 4p, 4r; Breanna Chester 7p, 12a, 3s; Emilee Hope 18p, 3s.