2018 KHSAA Girls State Tournament : George Rogers Clark Ends E-Town’s Run!
George Rogers Clark stops Elizabethtown
The 2017-2018 promo poster for the Girls Basketball team caption was “COMEBACK QUEENS.” It was truly fitting for what best defined their season. For Elizabethtown, the 2017-2018 version of the Lady Panther team will always be remembered as season of MAJOR change. After so many seasons with household names, All Area talent and All State and D-1 Talent waiting to happen, this season’s squad resembled one primarily of a group of no-names or players who had waited their turn after seasons of Erin Boley, Rachel Warden and Darien Huff talent in front of them finally getting their shot at the big time. To say they would be shocked with a 34-win season and one of the best records in team history would have surprised many including the players themselves.
I remember asking senior Karson Knight if the (it was one-loss at the time of her interview) record was a bit shocking even to her at that point and her response was “Yes. I it is!” Not that they weren’t capable especially with the 5th Region a little down with all the graduations and young talent still waiting to be developed. Still, with a bunch of No-Names, this team accomplished much with a strong guard base around sophomore Whitney Hay and guards Tansia Murphy and Karson Knight (who chose to return for her final season) and a inside game with length and power from Morgan Gattis and Leikyn Walker. This team didn’t go very deep, but they didn’t have to because the foundation was built around defense which simply didn’t allow teams to score or get inside to attack or create things.
So after their tenth 5th Region Title, Elizabethtown played their first State Tournament game at BB&T Arena in Northern Kentucky against Bowling Green, the 4th Region champion on a Wednesday afternoon and after a close game for much of the first half, the Lady Panthers finally pulled away, 62-41. Their next game on Friday afternoon turned out to be their last one. George Rogers Clark used a slow down defensive effort to take Elizabethtown to overtime and finally beat them 42-35. Head coach Donnie Swiney once told me that he felt he had a great group of kids and that he just hoped he didn’t mess it up meaning you never want the coach to be the reason you lose an important game.
I think he can rest easy knowing that he (and his group of young assistants) just might be the main reason it didn’t fall apart earlier. By staying the course and continuing to teach and work them in game situations, the Lady Panthers carved out 34-wins in a season that they probably shouldn’t have and maybe next year, they won’t have to be remembered as Comeback Queens anymore.
Game One – Bowling Green vs. Elizabethtown: The Lady Panthers scored their season average (around 60-points), but they won with defense. The staple of their 2018 success has been their length and ability to alter shots and swat away errant passes causing transition opportunities. After a close first quarter in which they led 10-7, Elizabethtown went on a run outscoring the Lady Purples 22-15 in the second and leading 32-22 at the half. After a close third quarter, Elizabethtown went on a 16-3 run in the fourth and put the game away for Swiney’s first State tournament win. The Lady Panther defense, especially the defenders around the basket) forced the Lady Purples into a 14-52 shooting night and only 4-of-19 shooting from outside the arc. Elizabethtown was a little better going 23-51 shooting and outrebounded them 37-32 with both Whitney Hay and Morgan Gattis combining for 16 together. Hay led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 20-points followed by Leikyn Walker with 11 and Tanisia Murphy with 9-points.
Game Two – George Rogers Clark vs. Elizabethtown: Since the state tournament started for Kentucky Girls Basketball, Elizabethtown has been there ten times and has not LOST in the first round always reaching the second round. The second round has been a slightly different story losing five times (including this season), so the Lady Panthers DREAM season finally came to an end as they ran into a hot team which used a strong defensive effort and timely free throw shooting to beat them in overtime, 42-35. The Lady Cardinals, using a stern defense to control Elizabethtown and were able to hold one of the hottest shooting teams to just 12-37 (32%) and putting the clamps on their outside shooting (3-15) and forcing 21-turnovers.
Elizabethtown did a pretty good job against George Rogers Clark holding them to just 11-40 from the field and just 3-15 from outside the arc and 17 turnovers, but in the clutch it was free throw shooting that won the game for the Lady Cardinals as they went 17-21 from the line including 9-of-10 in the overtime period after the game ended in regulation at 31-31. Elizabethtown’s shooting woes were such as they hit just three shots in the first quarter, four in the second quarter, two in the third and two in the fourth. The Lady Panthers attempted five shots in the overtime period and made just one (layup by Knight with 00:29 left). Knight had a shot to win the game in regulation with :02 remaining, but missed.