A Look Back at the 5th Region Girls Basketball Tournament!!!
A Look Back at the 5th Region Girls Basketball Tournament!!!!
Nelson County Ends Elizabethtown’s 3-Year Title Run!!!
It had to be a strange feeling for many of the Nelson County Lady Cardinals. As they prepared for the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers in the 5th Region Championship game at the Robey Dome at Marion County high school for a chance to play in the KHSAA Girls Sweet Sixteen. because very few were old enough to even remember the 2005 Region Championship game which was at the very same place when Nelson County played for the honor against Washington County. Which makes the chances that anyone of them being alive when the team last won a Region Title which was 1990 very remote. Marley Walls mother was on that team which has come so close several times only to just come up short.
It had to be an even stranger feeling for Jacqueline Coleman. The former head coach at East Jessamine high school, who left after four record breaking seasons there had began her doctorate in educational leadership at UK, but became the interim coach at Nelson County after Kelly Wood stepped down. Now she was one step away from going to her first KHSAA State Tournament.
It had been a strange season for the Nelson County Girls Basketball team. Many thought they could contend this season, but while they were running through the 19th District Tournament few were giving them credit or even a chance to win the Region title. Sure, they’d get there, but what then?
Nelson County has always had plenty of great athletes, but it always seemed like someone was a little better or had a better game plan. When Nelson County beat Elizabethtown back in December, it did cause quite a stir. The 62-60 win was the first over the mighty Lady Panthers since 2011 (46-44), then a strange thing began to happen. Nelson County went on a tear beating all 5th Region teams b an average of 25-points. Their three losses were to quality competition. This was a team which was fast, quick up and down the floor and could hurt you in either a half court game or full court. They weren’t very tall, but they didn’t have to be and they had experience and youth in all the right places.
Even the surprise resignation of longtime head coach Kelly Wood did not seem to faze them. In fact, Coleman’s appearance may have helped spur it as the team seemed to play as if nothing had happened.
Just business as usual.
Sometimes when a team makes a change it has a negative effect. That’s usually the case if the tea wasn’t put together well in the first place, but the machine that Wood built rode well even with Coleman behind the wheel.
After winning the 19th District Tournament, the Lady Cardinals began 5th Region Tournament play with an overpowering performance against Adair County, 84-49. Then in a rematch of the other Top-3 team in the Region, John Hardin became the next victim. The Lady Cardinals pressing defense caused 24-turnovers and Coleman’s team was eager to take advantage. Nelson County outscored John Hardin in every quarter and held a 10-point lead late in the game then added on to it on the way to a 65-45 win.
Now for the second time in three seasons the Lady Cardinals would be playing for the 5th Region Title. In their last trip to the championship game, Elizabethtown demolished them, 66-38. That Elizabethtown team had five players currently playing college ball somewhere. This Lady Panther still had a few of those and still a couple on their way.
Before the game Coleman that the key to beating E-Town was the same key to winning every other game. “Play hard. Play smart and play together. We did not prepare for that game any differently than for any other game. When we play well, we are hard to beat. I told them records no longer matter. All that matters is the 32 minutes that stand between them and the opportunity to finish what they started.”
Her conversation may have inspired her team as they came out fast building a 15-12 lead, then the teams traded baskets then junior guard Walls took over hitting two three’s, one a buzzer beater at the end of the half and a layup to push the lead to 30-20 at the half. At halftime, head coach Donnie Swiney urged his team to dig deeper if they wanted to extend their Region Title streak to four. In the second half, Elizabethtown behind guard Jada Stinson fought back and cut the lead to five points, but it seemed like Nelson County always found an answer. Nelson County forced 15 turnovers and Coleman’s team was quick to take advantage.
Good teams do the little things to win games. Nelson County hit 21-of-24 free throws in the fourth quarter. They were 24-of-28 overall. Walls finished with a game high 32-points. Le Le Linton had 12-points and 12-rebounds.
The Lady Cardinals out rebounded Elizabethtown 29-to-28 and they won, 69-56.
So for the first time since 1990, Nelson County will prepare for another game in March.
For Coleman, it has definitely been quite a ride and one in which her girls invited her along while she is the new driver. “The season and regional run are constant reminders of the resilience kids are capable of demonstrating. I can’t speak enough of the team’s character. There is not another group of kids who deserving it more.”