Carlie Harrison and Maddie Haney were freshmen the last time the East Jessamine girls earned a trip to the 12th Region tournament. If the Lady Jags can bottle their performance from Harrison and Haney’s senior night Thursday and unpackage it in a week and a half, they’ll be headed back to the region tournament again this year.
East (15-7) defeated district foe Burgin (13-11) at home 66-58 on Thursday; the Lady Jags and Lady Bulldogs will meet again on the same court in the 46th District semifinals later in February. A third senior for East, Heather Welch, was out with the flu Thursday.
The Lady Jags raced out to a 13-point lead early and had the game in hand at 24-14 near the beginning of the second quarter when East coach Jacqueline Coleman said her team “decided we were going to not defend.” Burgin guard Summer Burke started torching the Lady Jags defense, taking the ball to the rack and scoring 11 of the Lady Bulldogs’ next 17 points, including five free throws.
“(Burke) has a field day against us every game; I’m sure she’s so excited to play us, because we make her look like a superstar,” Coleman said.
Burgin took its first lead at 29-28 on a Randi Burke bucket with two minutes left in the half. East stayed in the game with four free throws from sophomore Emilie Hatfield, who Coleman said came up huge in place of Welch. Freshman Emma Young nearly nailed a half-court shot at the buzzer that would have tied the game at the half; the Lady Jags went into the locker room down 33-30.
“We weren’t setting up on defense; we were playing into what they wanted us to do instead of staying with our agenda, so that was the big halftime talk,” Coleman said. “We went back through the personnel; we went back through what we were going to ask them to do. When they do that in the first quarter, we’re up 11; when they don’t in the second, we’re down three.”
Sophomore Sarah Rainwater converted her third old-fashioned three-point play midway through the third quarter to reclaim the lead for the Lady Jags. Haney scored the last five points of the quarter for East, including a long three-pointer off an inbounds pass with 3.1 seconds left in the period that gave the Lady Jags a 48-46 advantage.
Coleman said the defensive effort from her two seniors was crucial in the second half.
“They hit some big shots, but more importantly, those two were so great defensively,” she said. “Maddie Haney is a great defensive player; Carlie is always the on-ball defender, and once we got her focused back in, she was able to get down and prevent (Summer Burke) from doing what she wanted to do. Their defensive presence on the floor is what gets us going offensively.”
The fourth quarter turned physical, with Burgin coach Ray Daniels even confronting referees on the other end of the court after one of his players came up hurt. East never gave the lead back, scoring its final 12 points from the free-throw stripe, including going 8-for-8 in the final 1:02.
Young tallied 15 points in the second half alone and totaled 21 points on the night. Rainwater and Haney also reached double figures with 16 and 12, respectively.
East and Burgin will meet again in the district semifinals at East. Coleman said she hopes Thursday’s victory will build her team’s confidence after the Lady Jags fell by one point at Burgin in January.
“I think it was a good showing on our part,” she said. “I really want our girls to feel like they can compete and go into the district tournament with a little bit of confidence. We’re 1-1 with them, so neither team should be too confident going into it, but there’s a little bit of ‘I believe we can do it’ now, especially down a starter — we’re out a starter and you win by eight points; that’s pretty big for these kids.”