Elizabethtown falls in overtime heart-breaker to George Rogers Clark
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky.—There’s no other way to describe it: the state tournament game between Elizabethtown and George Rogers Clark was an epic defensive war.
But when the dust settled it was George Rogers Clark who persevered with a 42-35 victory over the Panthers in the quarterfinals of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls Sweet Sixteen® Basketball Tournament at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena on Friday afternoon.
“It wasn’t a pretty game at all,” George Rogers Clark coach Robbie Graham said. “But defensively I thought we played really well. I thought we challenged shots and did a good job rebounding.”
The two teams combined to shoot just 23-of-77 from the field for 29.8 percent, but George Rogers Clark owned a 31-24 advantage on the boards over Elizabethtown.
George Rogers Clark (28-7) trailed 18-13 halftime and most of the second half before a 3-pointer by Jasmine Flowers tied the game at 31-all with 36 seconds left in regulation.
“It definitely wasn’t the play we drew up,” Graham said. “Maleaha (Behanan) had a driving line and I told her to go, and the girl came over to help. Maleaha saw the girl help off Jas and kicked it. Jas was open, and she knocked it down.”
Elizabethtown (34-3) had a chance at the final shot to end regulation, but George Rogers Clark junior Hayley Harrison blocked the attempt at the horn to send the game in to an extra session—the Panthers never being able to regain the lead in overtime en route to the loss.
“It’s a tough way to go out,” said Elizabethtown head coach Donnie Swinney of the shot that Flowers hit to force overtime. “Flowers hit a huge three and unfortunately we couldn’t pull it out in overtime.”
In overtime a driving layup by Behanan gave GRC a 35-33 lead, and Elizabethtown turned it over on the ensuing possession before GRC junior Kennedy Igo stepped up and made two free throws to extend the lead to 37-33 with 47 seconds left. Elizabethtown was never able to make it a one-possession game again after that point as the Lady Cardinals netted 7-of-8 free throws in the final 47 seconds to seal the victory.
It was an unceremonious end to a remarkable season for Elizabethtown, but Swinney is still incredibly proud of his players—especially the way they played together as a team.
“None of these kids have anything to be ashamed of,” Swinney said. “They’ve been great for us all year long. We wouldn’t be here without the whole group. It’s been a complete team effort all year long, and one of the greatest things about this group of kids is they’re so unselfish. They don’t’ want to score; they just want to win. Unfortunately (Friday) that didn’t happen for them.”
Graham has a lot of respect for Swinney and the Panthers, and he acknowledges that his team came out on top in a game that was an instant classic.
“It was a fun game with a tremendous atmosphere,” Graham said. “Hats off to Elizabethtown on a great season. Heck of a team. Very classy (players) and very classy coach. Just kudos to them for being part of a great game, and we were just fortunate enough to win it (Friday).”
Elizabethtown was led in the loss by Karson Knight with 15 points and five rebounds while Whitney Hay added seven points.
Igo paced a balanced George Rogers Clark attack with 11 points while Behanan and Harrison finished with eight and nine points, respectively.
The Lady Cardinals will now square off against defending state champion Mercer County in the semifinals on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. EST.
“Mercer County obviously is…Mercer County,” Graham said. “They’re the defending state champs and they bring all those girls back. But when we got here we didn’t want to just hang out. We wanted to come up here and play four games. That was our goal during preseason conditioning, and we’re not going to back down or be afraid. We know they’re a great team, but we’re going to come on the court and give it everything we got for 32 minutes.”