By DOUG EADS
From a ‘last’ to a ‘first’ — that’s the story of Southwestern Lady Warrior basketball after the conclusion of the 2019 Girl’s 12th Regional Basketball Tournament from Pulaski County High School.
Before the tourney ever got underway last week, Southwestern head coach Stephen Butcher knew it would be his last one as the Lady Warriors coach, since he was moving up into an administration position at the school.
So, he might as well go out a winner, and Butcher and his Lady Warriors did just that.
Kallie Sheron and Regi Cundiff each paced the Lady Warriors with a game-high 22 points on Monday night, and as a result, Southwestern cut the nets down for the first time in school history, downing Casey County in the championship game of the regional tournament by a final score of 68-54.
“We defended as a group, and they took to coaching, and they took to playing through a game plan,” stated a very happy coach Butcher after Monday night’s championship game.
“Then offensively, we just executed and put the ball in the basket,” continued the Lady Warrior head coach. “We made the extra pass time and time again, and that’s what good teams do, and that’s what champions do.”
The game with the Lady Rebels was close early on, with three ties and three lead changes in the first period of play.
However, thanks to a 6-0 spurt to begin the second quarter that gave the Lady Warriors a 20-12 lead at that time, Southwestern would never trail in this contest again.
Sheron and Cundiff each scored 10 points in the first half, while Casey County’s Lauren Lee tallied 12 of her team-high 16 points in the opening half of play, but the Lady Rebels couldn’t get over the hump on this night.
Two of Casey’s big guns — Natalie Duggins and Gena Cravens — were each held scoreless in the first half of play, yet the Lady Rebels only trailed Southwestern at the break by a 29-26 score.
However, Southwestern would never relinquish the lead in the second half of play.
The Lady Warriors stretched the advantage over Casey County out to 47-41 through three quarters of play, and then sealed it away by outscoring the Lady Rebels 21-13 over the game’s final eight minutes.
In short, Southwestern — with the game well in reach in the final period — was not going to let another opportunity go by the boards for a first-ever 12th Regional Tournament title.
“I could not be happier with this group,” stated Butcher. “You know Junior (Molden) and myself for the most part are the only two coaches our players have known at the high school level, and for the middle school level for most of them.”
“We’ve had a really good program for a really long time, and hopefully for our program, this is just a start for a really long run,” he added.
At the start of the fourth period, it was Cundiff that helped propel Southwestern to what would be a double-digit lead for the first time in the contest.
A Cundiff basket to begin the frame, followed by a pair of free throws from the junior forward, extended the Southwestern margin to 51-41 at that juncture.
On the next trip down court, Jenna Wood’s three-point basket extended the lead out to a baker’s dozen at 54-41, and at that juncture of the contest, this one was for all intents and purposes over and done with.
With the win, Southwestern improved to 24-5 on the season, and advanced to next week’s Girl’s Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena.
Members of the 12th Region’s All-Tournament Team from local teams were as follows: Heidi Thompson from Pulaski County, while the Lady Warriors put four players on the team. They were Regi Cundiff, Kallie Sheron, Alexa Smiddy, and Kennedy Harris.