By DOUG EADS
LEXINGTON — The Southwestern Lady Warriors made their first trip ever to the Girl’s Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena this week, and for Stephen Butcher and crew, it was a magical ride indeed.
After defeating Collins, North Laurel, and Louisville Male, the Lady Warriors stood just one win away from a state championship on Sunday afternoon.
However, a powerhouse from northern Kentucky — the Ryle Lady Raiders — had other ideas.
Ryle forced the Lady Warriors into 20 turnovers for the game, and shot 55 percent from the field, hitting on 22-40 field goal attempts.
The Lady Raiders raced out to a 33-14 lead over Southwestern by halftime, and withstood a mini-Lady Warrior rally in the third quarter, coming away with a 63-48 win over Southwestern.
Regi Cundiff paced Southwestern — who finished the season with a 27-6 record — with 16 points in the loss, while Kallie Sheron joined her in double figures with 13.
The Lady Raiders meanwhile — champion of the 9th Region — finished the season with a 33-5 mark.
Southwestern was trying to extend the 12th Region’s winning streak in state title games to three in a row heading into the game, as Mercer County came into this season as the two-time defending state champion.
The Lady Warriors figure to be a legitimate contender again next season, as four of Southwestern’s starters return next season, with the exception of Sheron — the Lady Warriors lone senior starter.