BOWLING¿GREEN — With her Lincoln County team down 13 points early in the second quarter, coach Cassandra McWhorter just wanted the Patriots to give themselves a chance to get back in the game.
They got that chance, trimming Owensboro Catholic’s lead to three points on four occasions before cold shooting eventually did them in, as they fell 66-55 in the first round of the state tournament Thursday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
“This is not where we want to be sitting right now. We wanted to get that game in hand. We didn’t come out to a good start in the first quarter, weren’t able to put the ball in the hole,”¿McWhorter said. “Definitely not where we thought we would be. We wanted to get back to that final four and even more. We had a taste of it last year, and we wanted to come back this year and make another run.”
But a 24-for-63 shooting effort, including 3-for-22 from 3-point range, pretty much sealed Lincoln’s fate and prevented a second straight successful state tournament run.
“You don’t shoot the ball great every night, and I felt our girls were ready to go,”¿McWhorter said. “We’d been shooting the ball well in practices. Just sometimes you have those games where the ball is not going in the hole and it hits every part of the rim except going through the bottom of the net.
“The first half especially, we didn’t shoot it well. We bounced back the second half and got a lot more shots to fall, but overall, 38 percent, that’s not our normal.”
Sydney Harris was 8-for-13 from the floor and scored 18 points while grabbing seven rebounds to lead Lincoln (27-6). Emily Fox scored 13 points, but was just 6-for-19 from the floor. Fox also had four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
“They just weren’t going in,”¿said Fox, who was 1-for-7 from 3-point range. “In practice, we were doing well and getting a lot of shots up, and they just were not going in tonight.”
Despite that poor shooting, Lincoln managed to rally from a 13-point deficit and trailed just 33-26 at halftime.
“We regrouped at halftime. I told them the momentum was in our favor,”¿McWhorter said. “We made a run and cut it to seven. I thought we came out did some things well, just never could get it to where we wanted it to be.”
Lincoln used a 6-0 run, with jumpers from Kourtney Belcher and Harris and a post bucket from Harris, to get within 37-34 with 3 minutes, 36 seconds left in the third quarter. A steal from Rachel Spangler and a jumper in the paint from Fox made it 42-39 with 1:04 left in the third.
Spencer Sims’ jumper from the elbow trimmed Owensboro Catholic’s lead to 46-41 entering the fourth quarter, and Harris’ drive on the Aces’ Rebecca Greenwell cut it to 46-43 19 seconds into the final quarter.
But that was as close as Lincoln would get, as the Patriots continued to miss shots and turn the ball over.
“We just could never get over that hump. We kept getting stops, and we were sometimes able to score,”¿McWhorter said. “But we were able to stay in it. We just were never able to get that lead.”
A three-point play from Kaylyn Pearson helped Owensboro Catholic (25-7) push its lead to 49-43 with 7:18 to play, and Lincoln never got closer than six points from there. But the Patriots did not go down without a fight.
Down 60-50, Fox scored on a drive, then Harris scored off a steal from Ciara Saylor to make it 60-5 with 2:03 to go. But Pearson hit two free throws to get the lead back to 10 with 1:32 to play.
The Aces were 18-for-20 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and finished 31-for-40. Lincoln went 4-for-6 from the line.
“We didn’t do a good job attacking the rim early,”¿McWhorter said. “But when a team shoots 40 attempts and you just shoot six, that’s hard to overcome. That makes it tough.”
Greenwell, a Duke signee, scored 24 of her game-high 32 points in the first half and grabbed 12 rebounds, helping the Aces hold a 34-27 edge on the glass.
“She is a McDonald’s All American for a reason. She’s a great player and she shot the ball well,”¿McWhorter said. “I thought we did a better job on her in the second half.”
Kaylyn Pearson had 15 points and 11 boards for Owensboro Catholic, and Mikayla Berry added 10 points.
Ciara Saylor got the first points for Lincoln on a putback with 6:13 left in the first quarter, but the Patriots’ shooting went south as the Aces went on a 14-2 run and led 16-5 after a quarter.
A Greenwell free throw made it 24-11 with 5:19 left in the first half, but Lincoln started cutting into the lead.
Two straight buckets from Tiandra Hocker, one coming off a steal of Greenwell by Fox, and a jumper from Belcher made it 24-17 with 3:58 to go in the half. Hocker and Belcher each scored six points.
Fox’s 3-pointer made it 28-20. Harris scored on two straight putbacks, the last with 7 seconds left in the half.
Girls Sweet Sixteen
At Bowling Green
Owensboro Catholic 16 33 46 66
Lincoln County 5 26 41 55
OWENSBORO¿CATHOLIC (25-7) — Mikayla Berry 10, Leah Greathouse 1, Rebecca Greenwell 32, Kaylyn Pearson 15, Destiny Howard 8.
LINCOLN (27-6) — Ciara Saylor 2, Emily Fox 13, Kourtney Belcher 6, Sydney Harris 18, Caitlin Hall 5, Spencer Sims 2, Chansler Gilbert 3, Tiandra Hocker 6.