DANVILLE — The Lincoln County girls enjoyed another happy ending to the 45th District Tournament.
The Patriots walked away with its sixth straight district title Friday night by defeating Boyle County 62-45 in the championship game at Rebel Arena.
Senior forward Sydney Harris, who had 19 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots, helped lead Lincoln’s sedate postgame celebration.
“We like winning,” Harris said. “We’ve won (district) every year since I’ve been in the seventh grade, and we played to win tonight.”
No. 1 seed Lincoln (24-5) and No. 3 seed Boyle (17-13) were embattled in a close game early, but the Patriots used a 14-4 scoring tear over the second and third quarters to break open the game and beat the Rebels for the third time this season.
Even after her team swept Boyle in the regular season, Lincoln coach Cassandra McWhorter knew contending for the district title in Boyle’s gym would not be an easy task.
“They’ve not had a lot of success in the recent past, but they’ve got a taste of it this season and they are playing really good basketball, so I knew it was going to be a battle,” McWhorter said. “I told the girls that Boyle County is playing very well right now. Coach (Greg) Edwards has done a great job with his girls, and they are hungry. I knew with it being on their home floor that they wanted this.”
Boyle did want the title. But Greg Edwards also knew his team had to overcome a strong opponent to get it.
“Give Lincoln County credit,” Edwards said. “That’s a heck of a team. They’ve been here before. They’ve got final four experience in the state tournament. They don’t flinch in this kind of situation. But our effort was there. I thought our girls came out and battled tough early in the game. We had the pace the way we wanted it. We just couldn’t buy a basket. It was a bad night on offense.”
Despite shooting just 22 percent (12 for 54) from the field overall, Boyle held its own early.
Harris helped get Lincoln off to a 7-4 start by hitting two buckets in the paint and sinking a free throw. Marlee Smith, who led Boyle with 14 points, and Dee Foster, who finished with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds, each had a bucket apiece for the Rebels in the opening run.
Smith added two free throws midway through the first quarter to make it 7-6, and then Foster followed with a putback and a 3-point goal to give the Rebels their first lead, 11-7.
Lincoln’s Emily Fox, who had 16 points, four rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots, followed Foster’s shot with her own 3 to put her team back in front, only to have Foster hit again to give Boyle a 13-10 edge.
Fox converted on two free throws after a steal to cut the margin to one, and then Spangler, who double-doubled with 10 points and 10 rebounds along with three assists and two steals, sank a 3-pointer for a 15-13 Lincoln lead after one quarter.
Boyle regained the lead in the first minute of the second quarter, with Lauren Richards opening the scoring to tie the game at 15-all and Hannah Harris following with a putback for another Boyle lead.
Unfortunately for Boyle, those two shots would be the only ones to fall until just 59 seconds remained in the first half, as the Rebels struggled on 3-of-13 shooting. The Rebels went through a span of three minutes without scoring a single point.
Lincoln’s offense also struggled early in the second quarter, going 3:45 before getting a field goal, but the Patriots made up for the missed shots at the foul line. Tiandra Hocker collected two free throws and Spangler got one to ease Lincoln in front 18-17 before Ciara Saylor hit a 3-pointer to make it 21-17 with 4:15 left in the first half.
Its lead was 26-22 when Fox went coast to coast off a steal to set off a 6-0 run. Sydney Harris finished the run with a bank shot and a layup to make it 32-22 with 1:24 to go. Chelsea Gill interrupted the run with a jumper, and Cami Holton and Smith collected a free throw apiece for Boyle before Fox closed the half with a layup that set the score at 34-26.
“Tonight we just couldn’t get anything to go offensively,” Edwards said. “That’s partly because of Lincoln’s defense, but we just had open shots that we didn’t get them to go down. We missed 28 shots in the paint and missed nine free throws tonight. You are not going to do that against a good team and expect to win.”
Lincoln, which shot 45 percent (20 for 44) from the field overall, went 7 for 13 in the second quarter.
And the shots kept falling to start the second half, with Lincoln going 3 for 3 in a 6-0 run. Sydney Harris hit twice in the run and Spencer Sims scored inside to make it 40-26.
“I knew they ( Rebels) were going to be a challenge and we would just have to be patient,” Sydney Harris said. “We just came in and said we have to be mature and we have to keep our calm. Coach McWhorter always tells us that we can’t win it in one quarter, so we have to keep playing four quarters. We did that tonight. We knew we had to play Lincoln County basketball, and that’s what we did.”
Smith converted on a three-point play late in the third period to trim the Lincoln lead to 42-34, but the Patriots got a 3-pointer from Sims and a three-point play from Spangler to put the score at 48-34 going into the fourth quarter. Sims finished with eight points.
Boyle got as close as 52-42 in the fourth quarter off two Hannah Harris free throws before Lincoln pulled away once more.
While disappointed in the loss, Edwards said he’s proud of Boyle getting its first berth in the 12th Region Tournament since 2009. The Rebels will join Lincoln in the regional this week at Pulaski County.
“We got over the hump this year,” he said. “We got back in the district championship game, and that was what we were shooting for. Every time we make a step up, we’ve got to keep working to get to where we want to be.”
45th District Tournament
At Boyle County
Boyle County 13 26 34 45
Lincoln County 15 34 48 62
BOYLE (17-13) — Chelsea Gill 7, Hannah Harris 5, Kalin Bottoms 5, Dee Foster 9, Marlee Smith 14, Lauren Richards 2, Cami Holton 1, Shelby Bishop 2.
LINCOLN (24-5) — Emily Fox 16, Ciara Saylor 3, Sydney Harris 19, Rachel Spangler 10, Kelsi Honaker 2, Spencer Sims 8, Tiandra Hocker 4.
Kourtney Belcher, Lincoln County; Jade Bell, Kentucky School for the Deaf; Devin Conley, Garrard County; Dee Foster, Boyle County; Emily Fox, Lincoln County; Essence Grey, Danville; Sydney Harris, Lincoln County; Marlee Smith, Boyle County.