George Rogers Clark hangs their hat on the defensive end and showed why Monday night in the opener of the 10th Region Tournament at the Mason County Fieldhouse.
The Lady Cards forced nearly double the amount of turnovers (17) than Nicholas County had field goals made (9) as they cruised to a 69-36 victory.
Despite a slow start, GRC turned its defense into offense on many occasions.
“Very slow start. I think we were tight and maybe we were looking ahead a little bit. It’s hard not to do that,” Lady Cards coach Robbie Graham said of a looming matchup against Campbell County. “Defense is what we hang our hat on, we held them to low scoring and were able to get our hands on some balls, get some easy baskets in transition and get going a little bit.”
A little over five minutes into the contest, the Lady Cards held a 5-3 lead before closing the quarter on a 9-2 run, fueled by 3-pointers from Hayley Harrison and Jasmine Flowers to take a 14-5 lead into the second.
After the two traded baskets to open up the second frame, a huge blow came to the Lady Jackets when Trina Hughes went down with an ankle injury. Hughes was unable to return to the game.
“That really hurt because a lot of the things we do on offense go through her. When she went out it hurt what we wanted to do,” Lady Jackets coach Greg Letcher said.
Hughes entered Monday’s contest as the Lady Jackets third leading scorer, averaging 9.6 points per game.
The Lady Cards took advantage as they went on an 18-3 run, earning multiple second-chance opportunities to build the lead to 32-10 over the next four minutes of play.
“We definitely wanted to crash the boards, Shemaya (Behanan) got her hands on a lot of balls, gave us a lot of second-chance opportunities,” Graham said.
GRC would take a 36-16 lead into the half.
The tempo went in the Lady Jackets favor to start the second half but were unable to put points on the board, putting up just a six-spot in the frame as GRC extended out to a 47-22 lead after three quarters of play.
The Lady Cards would coast from their as they came away with the 33-point victory. They had 11 different players enter the scoring column led by Harrison’s 19 points. Flowers and Kennedy Igo each added seven, while Cameron Anderson, Behanan and Kimberly Mack tossed in six points apiece.
The win sets up a heavyweight semifinal matchup with Campbell County, Friday night at 6 p.m. The Lady Cards improved to 24-7 with the victory.
“Campbell is heavily favored, you never know what can happen. We’ll sit here and watch them, we have three days to prepare and work on them. We’ll have to play better and we know that,” Graham said.
The loss ends Nicholas County’s season at 22-10. They were led by Shelby Stafford’s 14 points, who was named to the All-Tournament team after the game.
“It was great to see Shelby play so well and have a big game. She struggled a little bit through the course of the year but she played a game tonight like I know she is capable of. We’re looking for big things out of her next year,” Letcher said.
Senior Samantha Sowell added nine points and Sydni Gifford chipped in five.
The Lady Jackets will have to replace five seniors that won back-to-back 10th Region All “A” titles and had consecutive 20-win seasons.
“We’re proud of them, they are all great students and have a great future ahead of them. These last few months as seniors they have to make the right decisions. There’s a lot of people out there that in a lot of situations that will try to keep from you progressing along. They have to keep their head about them and make the right decisions and know there’s a lot of good things ahead,” Letcher said.
GEORGE ROGERS CLARK—14-22-11-22—69
NICHOLAS COUNTY (36) – Stafford 14, Sowell 9, Gifford 5, Adams 2, Felts 2, Myers 2, Rice 2
GEORGE ROGERS CLARK (69) – Harrison 19, J. Flowers 7, Igo 7, Behanan 6, Anderson 6, Mack 6, T. Flowers 5, Bell 4, Wilson 4, Berry 3, Treece 2
Field Goals: Nicholas 9/43, GRC 27/60
3-Pointers: Nicholas 1/8, GRC 5/15
Free Throws: Nicholas 17/21, GRC 10/19
Rebounds: Nicholas 33 (Flanigin, Gifford 7), GRC 40 (Behanan 9)
Assists: Nicholas 2, GRC 15 (Behanan, Harrison 3)
Turnovers: Nicholas 17, GRC 8
Records: Nicholas County 22-10, George Rogers Clark 24-7