After the Henry County Ladycats got up by 20 points and watched Gallatin County storm back to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, Henry's Kelsey Mings scored the game-deciding basket in the closing seconds to lift the Ladycats over Gallatin, 55-53, Friday night.
But it was a shot Henry never should have needed.
Gallatin held a 14-12 lead following first-quarter action before Henry outscored the host school 19-2 during the second quarter to go ahead 31-16 at the half. The Ladycats continued their run during the third quarter when they got up by 20 points, 36-16 - the biggest lead of the game.
But Gallatin chipped away at its deficit and with one minute to go in the fourth, went ahead 53-51. Henry then scored an inside basket to tie the game, and Gallatin called its final timeout with 30 seconds left and the score knotted up at 53.
The Ladycats forced a Gallatin turnover with 13 seconds left and Mings took her defender one-on-one to score the winning basket with just three seconds remaining to give the Cats the district win.
"It was an interesting game," Henry coach Todd Gilley said. "With a young team, we're going to have moments where we look really good and moments where we look really bad. And we experienced both of those against Gallatin.
"I don't think our players expected to be up by 20 points at any time, and they didn't handle it like we would have liked. But we showed a lot of character and guts when we could have folded, and it was a great learning experience for us."
Gallatin pressed Henry for much of the game, which resulted in the Ladycats gaining and losing their big lead. Henry took care of the basketball during the first half when the squad forged ahead, but had trouble in the second when Gallatin closed the gap.
"Gallatin was aggressive on their press, and we got a lot of scoring opportunities out of it," Gilley said. "Then, in the second half, Gallatin made some runs and we got in too big of a hurry. We have to learn how to handle another team's run, and that comes with experience. We forced things and let Gallatin build momentum."
Gallatin put together a string of runs that eventually tied the game and gave the team a lead. But in the end, Henry found a way to win and improved to 2-2, 1-0 in 31st District play. Meanwhile, Gallatin dropped to 1-2, 0-1.
Nine different Henry players scored during the game, including Brittany Crawford with 12 points and Mings with nine. Allison Taylor scored seven points, while Jean-Anne Moore, Jessica Booher and Taylor Clark scored six points each, Jenny Kozora scored four, Tyler Sadler scored three and Kelley Everige added two. Crawford also added 11 rebounds for her first double-double of the season.
As a team, Henry out-rebounded Gallatin 35-15 in the win.
"Gallatin is a very hard-nosed team that plays physical and relentless," Gilley said. "We knew it was going to be that way, and we're fortunate and happy to come way with a win. Our team was in a good frame of mind afterwards - we understood what we did to get the lead and what we did to give it up. It was a great teaching moment, and I feel like we are getting better."
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