Kim Barmore’s performance at the free throw line proved to be the difference in the Lady Cats victory over the Eminence Warriors.
Barmore hit 15 of her 18 free throw attempts Monday night — out of her game high 19 total points — in the first round of the 31st district tournament, besting Eminence’s 14 total points.
In reality, it was a total team effort — the Lady Cats used smothering defense, and combined with Barmore’s free throws, defeated the Warriors 28-14.
Barmore went to the charity stripe often, as she drove to the rim and was fouled repeatedly. The rest of the Lady Cats combined for just 9 points as they focused on getting Barmore the ball in the middle against the Warriors’ zone defense.
The Warriors struggled against the Lady Cats man-to-man defense, but handled their full-court pressure well. The Lady Cats half-court defense was the difference as they challenged every Warrior shot.
The Cats drew first blood in the 1st quarter when Colleen Coomes got the ball inside on the Lady Cats first possession and hit the turnaround jumper in the lane. Tiffany Thomas answered for the Warriors.
Both teams struggled to get field goals the remainder of the period as Barmore hit four free throws and Thomas hit one to make the score 7-3 after one period of play.
The Warriors tightened their defense even more in the second period and held the Cats to 3 points while managing 5 themselves to pull within 11-8 at halftime.
The offensive struggles continued as Henry County outscored the Warriors 6-3 in the third period to go up 17-11 entering the final period of play.
The fouls were mounting for the Warriors and the Lady Cats were soon in the bonus in the fourth period. The Cats solved the puzzle of the EHS zone and got the ball inside to Barmore, who was fouled repeatedly and went to the line, coolly sinking her free throws.
“It was nice to see that when we finally began to get the ball inside in scoring position that it was a freshman post player, Rachel Vegh, who got it started with two assist to Barmore,” Lady Cat coach Todd Gilley said.
Henry County began the final period with a 6-0 run as Barmore hit 4 free throws and a shot in the lane. With the lead at 12 points, the Warriors were forced into chasing the game and the fouls inceased. Mesha Cooper fouled out with 3:02 left in the game and Sherry Brees followed her to the bench with 2:15.
Haley Bramblett hit a 15 footer soon after to seal the Warriors’ fate.
Gilley was pleased the Lady Cats stuck to the game plan. “When you move the ball against a zone it makes gaps,” he said. “We thought that if we could attack inside, they might get in foul trouble. I thought our kids were disciplined. When you are disciplined, good things happen. I thought we played good defense and got most of the loose balls.”
Gilley complimented Eminence on their defensive effort. “I thought Eminence did a good job in their zone defense,” he said. “They made us work for every point we got.”
Coach Bill Covington agreed with Gilley’s assessment. “I was really pleased with our defense. That is the best we have played since before the Christmas break,” he said. They beat us at the foul line. They couldn’t miss and we couldn’t hit one. That’s been a problem all season.”
Covington was also pleased with the team’s ball handling. “I thought we did a reasonably good job of handling their pressure. We just couldn’t finish,” he said. “They played excellent defense. We just wore down in the second half which makes it tough.”
In the end it was Barmore’s effort at the free throw line that made the difference and Gilley was pleased with the team’s effort in getting her there.
“I thought Barmore did a good job of finding gaps in the zone and I thought her teammates did a good job of getting her the ball in scoring position,” he said.