Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

February 27, 2009

Elliott fights off East

GRAYSON — Elliott County girls basketball has forged its own place in the spotlight.

The Lady Lions’ first trip to the regional tournament will be as district champion.

Coach Mark Cantrell and his players embraced the moment after Elliott County withstood an East Carter comeback for a 60-58 victory in the 62nd District title game Thursday night.

As the final second ticked off, Cantrell walked onto the court at Harold Holbrook Athletic Complex with both arms raised above his head.

“It’s been a three-year process,’’ said Cantrell, whose team also secured its first 20-win season Thursday night. “We came here with the intention of winning a championship. I got them to buy into the reasons we could do it. We’ve seen our community get behind this team, and the girls believed.’’

Elliott County’s postseason success was a long time in the making. The program dropped 26 consecutive district tournament games before back-to-back wins this week.

East Carter nearly snatched away the prize, rallying from a 13-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter.

Katherine White’s 3-pointer sliced the lead to 57-56 with just under a minute remaining.

After Elliott County’s Shae Ferguson sank a free throw to make it 60-58 with 19 seconds left, White got another good look from behind the 3-point line in the closing seconds. But the ball bounced off the rim and into Shae Ferguson’s hands.

“This means everything, especially being my senior year,’’ said Ferguson, who led the Lady Lions with 18 points. “I couldn’t ask for any more. Now we’re looking to the region.’’

Both teams will move on to the 16th Region Tournament beginning Monday at Morehead State University.

Elliott County pulled off a difficult feat by defeating East Carter for the third time this season.

“People said to me that it’s hard to beat a good team three times,’’ Cantrell said. “We beat West Carter three times and now East Carter three times. It took every second to do it.’’

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