Except for the host team, the 16th Region took a backseat in the Kitten Shootout.
Perry County Central and Montgomery County used strong efforts by their post players Saturday to slip past Boyd County and East Carter, respectively, then West Virginia powerhouse Huntington St. Joseph went on a 24-0 run to open its game against Greenup County.
Ashland did the Irish one better, reeling off the first 25 points in walloping Fairview in a 64th District seeding game.
The Kittens had been scheduled to meet Magoffin County in a rematch of last March’s State Tournament first-rounder, but the Lady Hornets had to opt out because of their participation in the 15th Region All “A” Classic.
That left Ashland coach Bill Bradley scrambling to find a replacement.
“We called everybody,” Bradley said.
Fairview, slated to play the Kittens on Jan. 10, agreed to move that game to Saturday instead.
“We’re happy that it worked out so that we had an opponent,” Bradley said. “It was a good event. The first two games were very close. In the third, people got to see (St. Joe junior guard) Mychal Johnson who is going to Notre Dame. And, of course, our game.”
Perry Co. Central 60
Boyd County 56
Defending 14th Region champion Perry County Central led wire to wire, but had to hold off Boyd County down the stretch at Anderson Gym.
Logan Fraley sank two free throws and then hit a 3-pointer to bring the Lady Lions within 48-46 at the 3:21 mark.
Shortly after, Perry Central junior standout Kayla Rankin returned to the court with four fouls and carried her team to the finish line.
Rankin, an All-State selection as a sophomore, got free to take an inbound pass and converted a three-point play that halfted Boyd County’s momentum.
“We didn’t do a good job in that situation,” Lady Lions coach Pete Fraley said. “Rankin was able to slip a screen and made the play. You put her on any team in our region and they are instantly a contender.”
The 6-footer was fouled on another basket and made the free throw to give the Lady Commodores an eight-point margin with 1:06 to go.
Rankin finished with 23 points, including 15 in the second half. She came in averaging 22.8, along with 12.2 rebounds.
It marked the fifth tournament or one-day showcase this season for Perry County Central (8-7). Guards Whitney Evans and Whitney Back added 12 and 11 points, respectively, and the team shot 25-of-32 at the foul line.
Boyd County (10-4) committed 23 turnovers and trailed by as much as 13 points in the first half.
“We didn’t take care of the basketball,” Fraley said. “When you don’t do that against a player like Rankin, you put yourself in a hole, and we did that.”
Logan Fraley scored 17 of her 22 points in the second half to lead the Lady Lions. Taylor Wheeler scored 19.
PERRY CENTRAL 19 14 11 16 — 60
BOYD COUNTY 10 16 11 19 — 56
Perry Co. Central (60) — Back 11, Evans 12, Napier 3, Rankin 23, Sebastian 2, Spurlock 9, Coots, Combs. FT: 25-32. 3-point FGs: 3 (Back 2, Spurlock). PF: 23. Fouled out: None.
Boyd County (56) — Hunter Reeves 1, Stewart 1, Kenser 6, Wheeler 19, Fraley 22, Coburn 7, Goins, Houston Reeves, Lunsford. FT: 15-25. 3-point FGs: 5 (Fraley 4, Coburn). PF: 26. Fouled out: Kenser.
Montgomery Co. 49
East Carter 46
Despite living on the edge with 32 turnovers, Montgomery County managed to hang on for its 11th win in 15 games.
The big reason was Macie Spence, a 6-1 senior and Campbellsville University signee.
Spence, who has a soft shooting touch, made 12 of 13 from the field and both of her free throws for 27 points. Meanwhile, East Carter shot a frosty 25 percent through three quarters before heating up in the final two minutes.
“Macie is one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached,” said Janie Robinson, who is in her 21st season at Montgomery County and guided the 10th Region program to seven titles in the last eight years.
Spence scored six points down the stretch as the Indians led by 12 with less than two minutes remaining.
“She’s a very good player,” East Carter coach Hager Easterling said. “We just let her catch the ball where she wanted too easy.”
East Carter (9-5) made a late 8-0 run, fueled by 3-pointers from Bryana Greenhill and Haley Hall, to slice Montgomery County’s lead to 47-43 with 36 seconds left.
The Indians ran 18 seconds off the clock before junior guard Erica Rogers went to the foul line and sank two free throws.
Megan Stickler of East Carter connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key with eight seconds to play.
“I’m proud of the way we fought,” Easterling said. “This team understands our press and rotations as well any I’ve had. We just struggled to make shots and let Montgomery County get some separation on the scoreboard.”
It’s not the first time this season the Indians won despite committing 32 turnovers.
“We also had 32 against (Louisville) Central,” Robinson said of a 60-50 tournament win at Bullitt East. “I’ve not had a team this veteran and talented that threw the ball wherever.”
At the same time, Robinson credited East Carter’s tenacious play.
“I’ve known Hager for years, he’s a great coach,” she said. “They pushed the pace and we didn’t make good decisions. We ended up playing their game.”
Greenhill, with 17 points, was the only East Carter player to score more than seven.
MONTGOMERY CO. 12 10 16 11 — 49
EAST CARTER 9 13 8 16 — 46
Montgomery County (49) — Colliver 2, Tipton 6, Spence 27, Rogers 10, Conyers 4, Lockett, Arnett, Current, Barker, Jones. FT: 6-8. 3-point FGs: 3 (Rogers 2, Spence).
East Carter (46) — Greenhill 17, Stumbo 7, Stickler 7, Mayo 7, Gee 1, Hall 5, Damron 2, Steele, Bayes, Pennington. FT: 7-13. 3-point FGs: 9 (Greenhill 5, Stickler 2, Stumbo, Hall). PF: 12. Fouled out: None.
Huntington St. Joe 77
Greenup County 45
Greenup County, coming off a loss at Lewis County the previous night, got stuck in the starting gate against a talent-laden St. Joe team favored to win a fifth consecutive state championship in West Virginia.
Guard Griffin Dempsey, one of four junior starters for the Irish, buried three 3-points during the game-opening blitz.
Asia Petitte’s free throw capped the flurry in which St. Joe turned several steals into layups.
“We hadn’t played in about a week coming off our first loss,” St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis said of a 53-48 setback against (Knoxville) Webb during a holiday tournament in Atlanta. “I thought we had one of our better practices (Friday). It was indicative of the way we started.”
Johnson, a 5-9 junior who has verbally committed to Notre Dame, scored 15 of her 25 points in the opening quarter. Her 3-pointer made it 31-4.
“We played so scared to start the game,” Greenup County coach Mark Cantrell said. “They are a great basketball team. We had a little sleep in our eyes from playing on the road and St. Joe came out on fire.”
Cantrell was pleased to see Greenup County outscore the Irish 14-9 in the second quarter.
“Destiny (Goins) made some shots,” Cantrell said. “At times we showed we could play with them, but St. Joe is just better. They would win our region, no question.”
Dempsey finished with 20 points for the Irish (8-1). Petitte had 14 points and 14 rebounds, while Rachel Lee added eight points and 13 boards.
Jones connected on five 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead Greenup County. Micah Leslie was next with 11 points.
“We got a little lackadaisical after the first quarter,” Lewis said. “It’s a credit to Greenup County. They kept fighting.”
HUNT. ST. JOE 31 9 23 14 — 77
GREENUP CO. 4 14 14 13 — 45
Huntington St. Joe (77) — Mychal Johnson 25, Petitte 14, Dempsey 20, Rachel Lee 8, Mychelle Johnson 2, Jeffrey 3, Jenkins 3, Parker 2, Caitlin Gale, Anderson, Rebecca Lee, Chelsea Gale. FT: 11-21. 3-point FGs: 8 (Dempsey 4, Mychal Johnson, Rachel Lee, Jeffrey, Jenkins). PF: 13. Fouled out: None.
Greenup County (45) — Webb 9, Thompson 2, Jones 19, Leslie 11, Steele 2, Wireman 2, Campbell, Grizzle, Valandingham, Hunt, Pope, Clare, Quillen, Adams, Burton. FT: 4-9. 3-point FGs: 7 (Jones 4, Leslie 2, Webb). PF: 14. Fouled out: None.
After a layoff of nearly two weeks, Ashland resembled a buzzsaw against Fairview.
Kaylyn Gambill swished two early 3-pointers and the Kittens’ defense came up with one takeaway after another in bolting to the 25-0 advantage.
“We lost two real tough ones,” Bradley said of defeats by three and two points against Franklin County and Louisville Christian Academy in the Republic Bank Classic at Lexington Catholic. “These girls don’t get down. Nobody hung their head. They just want to get better.”
After the starters blew the game open early, Ashland’s bench took advantage of expanded court time. In all, 13 of 14 Kittens got into the scoring column.
“I saw a lot of unselfishness,” Bradley said. “There were a lot of scoring chances where players passed it up to create better shots, especially the subs. That shows me something because they are all dying to play. They want more clock.”
Alexis Robinson led the well-spread scoring with 13 points. Gambill was 4-for-5 from long range for 12 points. Alex Young also scored a dozen as part of the Kittens’ 39 points off the bench. Young and Cayce Layne each connected on two 3-pointers.
Ashland improved to 9-2. Fairview (7-6) got eight points from Brittany Bell.
FAIRVIEW 4 12 6 6 — 28
ASHLAND 25 20 17 15 — 77
Fairview (28) — Madison Humphrey 6, Adkins 4, McPeek 3, Bell 8, Meeks 4, Mackenzie Humphrey 3, Cornwell, Fraley, Thompson, Conley, Johnstone, Burton. FT: 5-8. 3-point FGs: 1 (Mackenzie Humphrey). PF: 15. Fouled out: None.
Ashland (77) — Gambill 12, Slone 2, Foutch 7, Cullop 4, A. Robinson 13, Jones 5, Young 12, Layne 6, Gransbery 4, Roberts 6, Hammond 2, M. Robinson 2, Vanover 2, Gunter. FT: 9-11. 3-point FGs: 10 (Gambill 4, A. Robinson, Jones, Young 2, Layne 2). PF: 11. Fouled out: None.