By ROCKY STANLEY - The Independent
MOREHEAD--Late in Saturday’s Girls 16th Region basketball championship game, Rowan County’s Kaitlyn Muncy and Jenna Kiser crashed to the floor and came up hurting.
Their pained expressions didn’t last for long.
The Lady Vikings won their school-record third consecutive regional title 46-34 in one of the most rough-and-tumble finals in tournament history.
Muncy, a senior guard, received the Best Defensive Player award and said she couldn’t recall being part of a more physical contest.
“Coming into the game, coach (Scott Tackett) said we had Ninth Region officials for the game and that they were going to let us play,’’ Muncy said. “He was right.’’
Neither team backed down, but Rowan County’s defense proved to be the difference in the lowest-scoring 16th Region girls’ title game of the modern era. The Lady Vikings came up with 23 East Carter turnovers and limited the Lady Raiders to 30-percent shooting from the field.
"East Carter is a physical team,’’ said Muncy, who had three of Rowan County’s 13 steals. “We have played against them since the sixth grade. I knew the more aggressive team was going to win the game.’’
After the final horn sounded, Muncy and tournament Most Valuable Player Natasha Kissinger hugged and fell to the floor in jubilation. After all, what was one more tumble after a bruising battle.
Rowan County became only the region’s second girls’ basketball team to accomplish a three-peat. West Carter won five in a row beginning in 1998.
“It’s awesome,’’ Muncy said. “I don’t know how to explain it. When people look back in 20 years, they will remember our names around here. That’s pretty special.’’
Rowan County fans couldn’t have agreed more.
“To go to the state tournament three times in a row is almost unheard of,’’ said Mary Duff, a teacher’s aide at McBrayer Elementary School in Morehead. “Scott does a great job.’’
Duff is a familiar name with Rowan County athletics. Mary and her husband, John, have two daughters in the Lady Vikings program. Kathryn, a sophomore, began the season as a solid contributor for Rowan County before suffering a high ankle sprain. Seventh-grader Becca has also dressed for varsity games.
"This is a good group of girls,’’ Mary Duff said from courtside as Rowan County players received their awards. “The only thing that could make it better was if Kathryn hadn’t gotten hurt.’’
The Duffs also have three sons — Matthew (25), Jonathan (21) and Nick (19) — who played baseball and/or basketball at Rowan County. Nick is a member of Morehead State University’s baseball squad.
Katie Martin and Jennifer Brockman, two senior mainstays on Rowan County’s 2009 regional championship team, provided vocal support from behind the bench Saturday. Both are freshmen at MSU and Brockman serves as a volunteer assistant coach for Rowan County’s junior varsity and freshmen teams.
“I felt like this team would do it,’’ Brockman said. “Defense is what wins here.’’
Martin was all smiles after Rowan’s latest title.
“I’m extremely happy for them,’’ Martin said. “I’m proud to say I was a Lady Viking.’’
Second-year Rowan County assistant coach Larry Slone praised the team’s work ethic and defensive preparation.
“All we talked about the last few days was holding the score down and creating 20-some turnovers,’’ Slone said. “That’s what we do.’’
Slone, 61, joined Tackett’s staff last season and also has guided Rowan County’s softball team to two regional titles.
“There’s nothing like the feeling,’’ Slone said. “It’s special. Scott does a great job coaching the girls and gets a maximum effort from them 99 percent of the time. He has a great feel for what needs to be done.’’
Kiser hurt her shoulder in the closing minutes after getting tangled up with Muncy and East Carter players, but her toughness throughout was a key for the Lady Vikings.
“It was a very physical game,’’ Kiser said. “It means a lot to be the first Rowan County team to win three straight.’’