TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
Special to the Times-Tribune
Perhaps a prelude to October's State Tournament, Kentucky's top regular season middle school girls basketball tournament was hosted at Whitley County Middle and High School this past weekend with 16 teams from across the state bidding for the title — Kentucky Middle School Classic champions.
Whitley County emerged with four big wins in a single day to capture the crown.
The tournament began with Whitley easily handling previously undefeated Clark Moores (13-0) from Richmond, 40-19, forcing Clark into 26 turnovers for the game. A 14-2 start to begin the game gave the Lady Colonels a cushion they would never relinquish.
Next, Whitley took down traditional power Southern Pulaski in the quarterfinals, 52-25. Whitley had three-pointers from four different players to help distance themselves and capture the win. The Lady Colonels shot exactly 50 percent in the victory while limiting the Lady Warriors to only 31 percent shooting from the floor. In the semifinals, Whitley County over came the loss of injured post player Madison Centers to pull away in the second half, outscoring Russell County 13-0 in the third quarter to help them to a 41-29 win. The Lady Lakers were held to just 27 percent shooting from the floor.
The championship game was an instant classic — a battle of last year's state runner-up Whitley County, matched with 2012 final four team Elkhorn Middle from Frankfort.
“Elkhorn is one of the top three teams in Kentucky, so we knew we would have our hands full,” commented Lady Colonel Coach David Estes. “Our game plan was simple, be the most aggressive team on the floor and be efficient offensively, we were able to do that.”
Whitley shot 49 percent from the floor including hitting six-of-10 three point shot attempts. The normally fast-paced Lady Colonels were content to play in the half court, slowing the tempo and making Elkhorn's zone change sides of the floor multiple times on the same trip.
“Early in the game, the fatigue of playing four games in one day caught up with Elkhorn,” Estes said. “They got caught watching on skips from our posts and we hit three three's in our first five possessions.”
The Lady Colonels never trailed during the win.
“I know some look at points scored, or shots made after the game, as the definitive answer on who played well, but what our team buys into is that rebounding, guarding the ball, and diving on the floor after a loose ball is just as important,” Estes said. Hannah Clear eliminated one of the top players in the state, Kindall Talley, holding her to just two points. Madison Centers played despite having an injured left arm and pulled down 10 rebounds. Sierra Feltner is our do-everything player, she's everywhere on the floor. She had seven points, six rebounds, three blocked shots, and a steal, and guarded their second best player the entire game.
"Some things just don't show up in the stat column, like getting to help-side in defense and making defensive plays like Gracie Nichols did,” he added. “And how can I not mention Abbey? Sure she shot it well, as evidenced by her four made three-point shots, but her decision-making was superb, too. She ran the show for us and helped us play the game at the pace we wanted to."
The Lady Colonels won the game, and championship, with a score of 40-28.
“Our bench didn't play much in the championship game, but we couldn't have won the tournament had they not stepped up in the previous three games,” Estes said. “Katelyn Lawson, Carolann Schupanitz, Kaelie Frazier and Erica Flannery, all stepped up at exactly the right times, it was a total team championship.”
Whitley County 40, Clark Moores 19
Clark Moores (19) — Hillard 10, Hendrix 2, Wright 2, Stull 3, Presnell 3.
Whitley County (40) — Clear 5, Feltner 8, Centers 12, Lawson 2, Schupanitz 1, Frazier 4, Flannery 8.
Whitley County 52, Southwestern Pulaski 25
SW Pulaski (25) — Hines 5, Bunch 2, Hayes 8, Cundiff 7, Elder 3
Whitley County (52) — Clear 13, Estes 14, Nichols 2, Feltner 5, Centers 11, Lawson 2, Schupanitz 2, Flannery 3.
Whitley County 41, Russell County 29
Russell County (29) — Wade 3, Ackerman 4, Johnson 1, Elmore 9, Preston 6, Loy 6
Whitley County (41) — Clear 10, Estes 18, Nichols 3, Feltner 2, Centers 6
Whitley County 40, Elkhorn 28
Elkhorn (28) — Talley 2, Jordan 3, Hogan 2, Hurst 9, Thacker 12
Whitley County (40 ) — Clear 5, Estes 18, Nichols 2, Feltner 7, Centers 8