I have had the luyxury of going to the Girls' State tournament three years in a row now, and so far it has been another interesting experience here in Bowling Green.
Clay County vs. Ohio County
Let me just start by saying, back in March of 2007 I had the chance to watch Clay County play in their last state tournament appearance. That year, Tee Lady Tigers played North Hardin in the first round and lost in the final seconds. Gemma Gray had the chance to win or tie the game trailing by two, however, she missed the shot from the corner and the Lady Tigers lost by the score of 51-49.
So things could not possibly go the same way this year, right? Well the signs were promising. Bobby Keith was in the stands cheering on the Lady Tigers (he wasn't just in the stands, he was in the student section, in the front row!!). Then before the game, I watched as a player on Ohio County, Arielle Keown tripped on the way out onto the floor from the locker room. I remember chuckling to myself thinking that she almost took a dive. But not even five minutes later, while doing a drill, Keown goes down at center court with an apparent knee injury. After talking to some people, I found out that she had hurt her knee in the 3rd Region Championship game versus Muhlenburg North. That injury took place with minutes left in the game in a blow-out, so some argued that she shouldn't even have been playing. (See, she is the second leading scorer for the Lady Eagles). Keown was down on the court for several minutes before she was finally carried off the floor. It was pretty obvious that she was going to miss the game, so again, signs were in favor of Clay County. As Ohio County came out of the locker room for the last time before the start of the game, several players carried Keown to the bench just so she could watch the game. It was an incredible sight.
So, as the game got under way the Lady Tigers went to their usual gameplan, inside to Jordan Phillips, inside to Whitney Belle Jackson, inside, inside, inside. But then, i noticed a player on Clay County that I had not really seen before. Wearing the number 20 was Sabrina Smith, an eigth grader who had only been on the varsity squad for only a couple of weeks. Not only that, but she had never played middle school ball. Before, you knew it, Alisha Mitchell and Kayla Smith kept feeding her the ball in the post and she was scoring point after point to give Clay County a 12 point lead in the first half. In over 17 minutes of play in the game, Sabrina finished with 12 points on the night. At halftime however, the Lady Tigers had only a 3 point lead.
In the second half, it was another story. Clay County fell victim to the turnover and Ohio County's leading scorer Mariah Robinson took the game over. Robinson scored 12 points in that second half giving the Lady Eagles a 5 point lead with under a minute to go.
That is when Danielle Fox came up with a huge steal at center court, fired it into Ashley Hinkle who, while falling down was able to get the ball to Jordan Phillips for the score and the foul. So, it would be a three point swing bringing the game back to two with about 30 seconds left. Clay would have to foul and Ohio County hit both of their free throws bringing it back to 4 points. The next time down the floor, Danielle Fox took a jumper from the baseline and missed, but Phillips was their for the putback, and again it was a two point lead with 14 second left on the clock. Ohio County went the line again, and hit their first shot, but was off the mark with the second. So will 4 seconds left on the clock Hinkle took the ball down the floor and threw one up from half court, but it fell short.
Clay County lost by three, 59-56.
After the game head coach James Burchell talked about how happy he was with the play of his girls. Obviously, he would of liked the win, but he also called it a good experience for the team. With no seniors on the team, everyone will be back next year, as Clay County will most certainly be poised to come back to Bowling Green next year.