By James Cook, Times Editor
Maybe it was an omen.
Just before Powell County and Woodford County were set to tip it off in the Bluegrass Middle School Conference Eighth Grade Tournament last Thursday, some of the gyms lights went out. It was two sets. One right over the Powell County bench, the other over the section where the Lady Pirates fans were sitting. After a 15 minute delay the game began.
The Lady Pirates met the only team that had beaten them in three seasons for the second time. Same Powell County regular season record, zero losses. But the same tournament result. The Lady Tigers used half court game, beat the crushing Powell press and outlasted the home team. Woodford took home the 43-34 semi-final victory. Woodford beat Powell last year in the seventh grade tournament, the Lady Pirates only two loses in three years.
Powell began play as they always do with a smothering full court pressure defense. They ran out to a quick 8-3 lead, but could not quite shake Woodford. Behind the inside play of the Lady Tigers’ Chelsey Ford, Woodford cut the lead to 10-8 at the end of the first quarter.
Powell’s Keeley Rogers picked up the pace in the second period, with a little help from Mackenzie Barnett who came off the bench and some key rebounds by Tristan Curtis. Combined they helped to pace the home team to take a six point lead on at least three occasions in the period. Powell held a 23-17 half time lead, but Woodford was handling the press and the Lady Pirates began to show some signs of fatigue.
The third quarter became a battle as both teams used a little run-and-gun offense. But Woodford’s guard, Shelby McDonald took control. As Woodford began to force some Lady Pirates turnovers, McDonald either used a fast break to score or set up the offense to find Ford inside. Meanwhile, Powell began to pour on their trademark fast breaks off Lady Tigers’ missed shots. But when the horn sounded to end the quarter, the score stood tied 32-32.
The fourth quarter became a nightmare for Powell. Following both teams taking turns in giving the ball away, Woodford took a quick lead on a six foot bank shot by Ford. Rogers answered for Powell, nailing a 15 foot jumper. But it would be the last shot Powell would hit.
Woodford outscored Powell 11-2 in the final frame. The Lady Pirates looked to be fatigued as Woodford began to swarm on defense, reject shots and out rebound Powell. The outside game for the Lady Pirates was also silent as they connected on only two three point shots. Woodford used a trio of fresh players to defend outside threat Erica Rogers. The result was a heartbreaking 43-34 loss to end the season.
“We had an awesome season and this I told the girls that I was extremely proud of them,” Coach Sharon Mallory said after the game. “Three years and only lost two games, this is a special group.”
“It will be a long time before anyone challenges this record of three undefeated regular seasons,” Assistant Coach Dana Estep added.
As for the fatigue factor, Mallory agreed it was a problem. “Definitely; He (Woodford Coach) ran them in and out all night long,” Mallory said. While the Lady Tigers was able to play nine players, Powell used seven in a week where the tournament forces the teams to play four games in five days to win the championship.
Woodford (21-3) was led by Ford with a game high 16 points and McDonald with 14. The visitors nailed five treys and were 6-of-12 from the free throw line. The Lady Tigers played Scott in the championship game on their home floor last Friday night.
Powell was led by Keeley Rogers with 14 points and she was the only lady Pirate in double figures. All six of the Lady Pirates that played did score. Powell was held to just 2-of-6 from the charity stripe, all of those coming from Rogers.
“We’re going to give them a week and then start getting ready for the state tournament,” Mallory said. The Lady Pirates have registered to take part in the Kentucky Basketball Academy’s state middle school tournament. The tournament is available to teams that wish to register, but there is no fee to play. Early games will be played at the KBA facility Nov. 13-15 in Lexington. The finals will be played in Rupp Arena on Nov. 27.