Putting three players into double-figure scoring and playing shut-down defense, Grayson County’s Lady Cougars advanced to the semi-final round of the 3rd Region Tournament with a 50-40 win over the Apollo E’Gals Thursday night at the Sportscenter, in Owensboro.
With the win, the Lady Cougars (16-14) advance to Saturday’s semi-final round where they will face the Meade County Lady Waves (14-15), a 62-48, upset winner over Ohio County. Grayson County played the Lady Waves in Brandenburg in early January and came home with a 71-58 win following one of their best performances of the year.
The Lady Cougars had also played the E-Gals earlier in the season in Owensboro and suffered a 71-58 loss as Sydney Taylor scored 21 points and J’Nayah Hall had 20.
On Thursday, the Lady Cougars could not contain Taylor, who used a nasty cross-over dribble to consistently get past defenders for short jumpers and lay-ins. Taylor finished with a game-high 20 points.
But the Lady Cougar defense completely shut down the rest of the E’Gals on offense, and held Hall to just six points before she fouled out with just a few seconds left to play in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile the Lady Cougars were on fire at the start, shooting 70 percent from the field in the first half on their way to a 14-point lead. Junior Maddie Stewart scored 14 points for the Lady Cougars, as did sophomore Sarah Pierce, who continued her outstanding play in the post-season.
Freshman Grace White was the third Lady Cougars in double figures, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds. Stewart led the Lady Cougars on the glass with seven rebounds.
Grayson County scored the game’s first five points and led 8-3 at the 4:21 mark before the E’Gals got their game in gear. A lay-in by Taylor at the 2:00 mark gave the E’Gals their first lead of the night at 9-8. That was the first of four straight lead changes that saw Apollo take a 13-12 lead at the end of the period.
There were three more lead changes at the start of the second period. Stewart scored at the 7:14 mark to put Grayson County on top 16-15 and they would never trail again. Stewart’s basket was the start of an 11-2 Grayson County run that saw them go up by 10 points, 27-17 with 4:21 left.
The Lady Cougars later scored the last four points of the half and took a 14-point lead, 35-21 at the break.
When Stewart opened the second half with a lay-up just 15 seconds into the third quarter, the Lady Cougars held their largest lead of the night, 16 points at 37-21. The E’Gals later scored the final four points of the period to cut their deficit to 12 points, 45-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
At the start of the final period, the Lady Cougars went into a shell, trying to keep the ball away from the E’Gals and it nearly cost them. Grayson County went scoreless in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the period and turned the ball over six times.
But Apollo failed to fully capitalize on their opportunity. Braelyn Rhodes scored at the 6:17 mark to cut the lead to eight points, 45-37, but the E’Gals then had four empty trips.
Allie Horton went to the line in the bonus with 3:29 left to play and hit 1-of -2 to make it 46-37. Those were the Lady Cougars’ first points of the period. Taylor later hit two free throws with 53 seconds left that made it a seven-point game, 47-40, but those would be the last points Apollo would score.
Horton finished the night with five points before she fouled out with a little over three minutes left to play. Eighth-grader Hannah Saltsman added three points. Senior Kaylan Shull scored just two points, but she added four rebounds, two assists and three steals.
The Lady Cougars will take on Meade County at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday at the Sportscenter.