By Nancy LeedyBOWLING GREEN — Lincoln girls coach Cassandra McWhorter said before the Sweet Sixteen tournament that she wanted her Lady Patriots “to make noise at state.” And make noise they did.The Lady Patriots did something no other Lincoln basketball team had done before, roaring their way into the KHSAA Girls State Tournament Final Four.But that roar was finally silenced in Saturday morning’s semifinals as mighty Marion County eliminated Lincoln at E.A. Diddle Arena.The Lady Patriots challenged the Lady Knights to a 13-13 tie in the first quarter and kept it close in the second before Marion took control in the second half to put away Lincoln 61-40 and end the Lady Patriots’ state run.“It’s sad to see us not come out with the win, but I’m very proud of the young ladies that I get to coach and call family,” McWhorter said. “They left everything on the floor this weekend, and I’m proud to be their coach. And I know Lincoln County is proud of these girls.”“They have nothing to hang their heads about. I’m proud of their effort and commitment.”Lincoln (26-10) was led by Emily Fox, who had a game-high 19 points with five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Kourtney Belcher had 10 points and two boards, Sydney Harris had six points and seven rebounds and Rachel Spangler had eight rebounds. Marion (34-4), which had been ranked No. 1 or 2 in the state throughout the season, had met Lincoln in the regular season, romping 63-35. The Lady Knights put the state semifinal game away early in the second half to advance to Saturday night’s state championship game.Marion, which led 27-19 at the break, started to pull away early in the third quarter, forcing two quick turnovers and breaking on a 14-2 run to extend the Lady Knight lead to 41-21 midway of the third. The Lady Knights then closed out the frame on a 9-2 run to take a 50-25 lead into the fourth quarter.“We knew they would do that, and we knew we’d be in trouble because we didn’t have Rachel (Spangler) to help get the ball up court,” Fox said. “But we tried to get through.”Spangler would not get to play out the final game of the season, leaving the game with 2:37 to play in the first half after turning her ankle on a defensive rebound.“She’s a very tough player. It’s unfortunate when she goes down like that,” McWhorter said. “And she feels bad, like she let the team down, but if we don’t have her, we’re not here.”Poor shooting didn’t help Lincoln in the semifinal game. The Lady Patriots shot just 29 percent (15-for-51) from the field, going 3-for-17 from 3-point range, and had 21 turnovers.“They just kind of grind it out, and they did a good job of stepping up and getting steals,” McWhorter said. “And when you can’t put the ball in the hole, it makes it difficult for any time. We were not able to (hit) like last night and it made the girls discouraged.“Marion County is just a good team, and they took advantage of that. Their length, they’re like giants out there with their arms. Their length creates a lot of problems out there.”Marion was only slightly better from the field than Lincoln, shooting just 32 percent (19-for-60). The Lady Knights went to the foul line to cushion their lead, sinking 21 of 26 free throws. Lincoln was 7-for-10 at the line. Marion got the win on the glass as well, outrebounding Lincoln 44-36 with 17 offensive rebounds.“We started out a little sluggish, but we came out after halftime and really played an excellent third quarter,” Marion coach Trent Milby said. “We started pounding the ball inside, and that led to some easy baskets. And when we can do that, we can push the pace. And you could see Lincoln County was rushing their shots, and that played right into our hands.”An Alexus Calhoun layup followed by two free throws with 3:54 to play gave Marion its biggest lead of the game, 58-26. Lincoln was able to narrow the gap before the final horn sounded, using a 14-1 surge to get within 19.Fox scored 10 of her 19 points in the closing run, including nailing two treys. Harris and Tiandra Hocker had two points apiece as Lincoln got within 59-40 with 53 seconds to go. Lincoln did get the upper hand on Marion early. Bre Elder, who led the Lady Knights with 16 points, hit two quick baskets to get Marion off to a 4-0 start, but Lincoln answered with a 6-0 run to move ahead. Fox got Lincoln started with two free throws then Harris put up back-to-back baskets to make it 6-4, Lady Pats, with 4:33 to go in the first.Lincoln was up 8-6 off a Kourtney Belcher jumper when Makayla Epps hit her first bucket, a 3-pointer, to nose Marion back in front. The Lady Patriots did not regain the lead but did end the first tied at 13-all with the Lady Knights. But Marion quickly broke the tie. Epps, who scored 10 of her total 12 points in the first half, jump started a 6-0 run with a driving layup. Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, sank two free throws then Epps scored another layup to put the Lady Knights up 19-13 with 6:31 left in the first half.Fox made it a two-point game with 4:55 left in the first half, collecting two free throws and a jumper for a 19-17 ballgame before Goodin-Rogers hit outside to set off a half-ending 8-1 run. Haeli Howard rang up a trey before Goodin-Rogers closed the half with a three-point play to give Marion a 27-19 lead.
Lady Patriots fall to Marion County in state tournament semifinals
STATE SEMIFINALISTS. Former Lincoln girls coach John Kolasa, background in stands, applauds the 2012 Lady Patriots as they and coach Cassandra McWhorter step back onto the hardwood to collect their state semifinalist trophy after falling to Marion County Saturday in the Sweet Sixteen Tournament.