By DOUG EADS
For a half at least, Southwestern and head coach Stephen Butcher and his basketball team was in trouble.
The Lady Warriors trailed Lincoln County on Sunday afternoon 33-25 through one half of play in the 12th Regional Tournament’s semi finals – a Lincoln County team that had defeated Southwestern in the regular season by a score of 54-36 way back on January 29th.
Yesterday at The PC Gym however was not January 29th.
The Lady Warriors came out of the locker room and simply put, dismantled Lincoln County over the second half of play.
And, everybody got in on the act for the Lady Warriors.
Jenna Wood hit a couple of huge three-point baskets in a decisive third quarter, Kennedy Harris had a long-range bomb, and the duo of Kallie Sheron and Regi Cundiff couldn’t be stopped down in the paint.
And oh yeah, point guard Alexa Smiddy converted a three-point play as well as draining another trey during that third quarter rally.
As a result, it was Southwestern taking a 47-43 lead over the Lady Patriots headed into the fourth quarter, and Butcher and crew would never look back on their way to an impressive, 74-59 victory.
So coach, what did you say to your team at halftime?
“I simply told our guys that if Lincoln shot 6 of 8 from three in the second half they were going to win the game,” stated a very happy Butcher after the game.
“We tried to limit the really good looks that they got, and I thought Kallie and Reg (Cundiff) did a superb job, and we did a good job of handling (Kaitlyn) Wilks one on one,” added the Lady Warrior coach. “If we could handle her one on one, that allowed us to stay out on the perimeter. We didn’t do everything great, and I told them all week we would not be perfect, but we needed to have a perfect effort, and we did that.”
As for perfect, it may not have been 100 percent perfect, but Southwestern played an almost flawless third quarter — a period that saw the Lady Warriors erase that eight-point halftime deficit, while grabbing a four-point lead at the end of the frame.
And it all started right from the outset of the second half.
After holding Lincoln County on the first possession of the half without a point, Kennedy Harris drained a three on a called play from Butcher, and the comeback was on.
That trey from Harris ignited a quick, 9-0 run by the Lady Warriors, that put Southwestern into the lead over Lincoln County at 34-33.
Smiddy hit one of two from the line, and then added a three-pointer, followed by a nice hoop on the inside from Cundiff.
Lincoln County’s Kaitlyn Wilks then coverted a three-point play giving Lincoln County what would be the Lady Pats last lead of the contest at 36-34.
Smiddy would drain another three-pointer for a 37-36 Southwestern lead, and then Jenna Wood would follow her with another trey — the first of two in the frame from Wood, and the Lady Warriors would take it from there.
“It was really huge,” pointed out Butcher, in talking about his club’s run to begin the second half.
“I called the play for Kennedy to take the three,” added the Southwestern coach. “I thought if we could get one to go there after getting a stop on Lincoln’s first possession of the third period, that would be like a three-run home run. Now, the momentum was all on us, and we got a couple more stops, and then all of a sudden the ball is finding the bottom of the net for us.”
Leading the Lady Patriots by that 47-43 margin through three quarters of play, Southwestern kept the heat on Lincoln County in the final period.
Smiddy and Wood began the fourth period with hoops, extending the lead out to 51-43 over Lincoln County, and the Lady Pats would never get the deficit below six points from that juncture, playing from behind for the entire frame.
Kallie Sheron played a stellar floor game for Southwestern, leading a balanced scoring attack for Southwestern with 21 points.
Cundiff added 17 points in the win, Harris had 15 points, and Smiddy added 13 points for Southwestern.
The Lady Warriors — now 23-5 on the season with the win — moved on to tonight’s championship game of the Girl’s 12th Regional Tournament, where the Lady Warriors will meet up against a red-hot Casey County Lady Rebel team.
Casey County — 25-8 on the season — punched its ticket to tonight’s final with a 71-68 win over Danville in yesterday’s second semi final contest.
Tonight’s title game will get underway from Pulaski County High School beginning at 7 p.m.
The Girl’s All-Region Team was introduced at halftime yesterday during the Southwestern — Lincoln County game.
The team, as voted on by the 12th Region Coaches Association, featured three teams.
Local players that made the squad were as follows: Shelby Cothron — Pulaski County (THIRD TEAM), Alexa Smiddy — Southwestern (THIRD TEAM), and Regi Cundiff — Southwestern (SECOND TEAM).
The 12th Region Player of the Year for this season was shared, as Lincoln Connty’s Emma King and Danville’s Ivy Turner were selected as Co-Players of the Year.