In mid-December, the Henry County Lady Cats and Carroll County Lady Panthers squared off in a game that coaches and players felt the Lady Cats should have won.
Last Friday the Cats played the host Panthers in the consolation bracket of the North American Steel Holiday Classic and came away with a convincing 55-41 victory.
Freshman Cheyenne Clark had a breakout performance with 27 points to lead the Cats.
The opening period was tight as the teams traded baskets but with the score tied at 3-3 the Lady Cats went on a 7-1 run to open a 10-4 lead.
Clark had 6 of those points and Kim Barmore added a free throw.
But Carroll County answered with a 3-pointer to make it 10-7 before Clark stretched the lead back to seven points with with a layup in traffic and two free throws. Carroll got the final 3 points of the quarter on a layup and free throw to close within 4 points going into the second quarter.
The Cats stretched the lead to 8 points to open the period on a couple of 15-foot jumpers by Sydney Abrams and Rachel Vegh.
Carroll County answered with an 8-2 run to close within two points at 20-18.
After a Henry County timeout the Cats closed the half with an 11-0 run to take a 13-point lead into the locker room. Clark and Haley Bramblett had 5 points each in the closing run.
If the Cats thought they could put it in cruise control for the second half they were mistaken. Carroll County came out and opened the third period with a 7-0 run to narrow the gap.
The Lady Cats had the answer as Clark hit a 3-pointer and Kim Barmore scored on a layup and was fouled which allowed her to complete a 3-point play. But Carroll once again answered, connecting on two consecutive 3-pointers to pull within six again at 37-31.
The Cats then went on a 6-2 run to finish the period and push the lead back to 10 points.
The Lady Panthers fell behind by 12 points early in the fourth quarter and made one last 6-0 run to close the gap to 47-41 with 4:30 remaining.
But the Cats answered again as Clark fed Colleen Coomes with a nice pass inside and from there the Lady Cats scored the final 6 points to pull away for the 14-point victory.
Coach Todd Gilley was pleased with the team’s resilience in the game. “I thought we responded to their runs very well. We had an answer every time,” he said. We’ve been taking steps and today was a result of us taking little steps each day. The confidence we showed on offense was a result of those little steps.”
“Cheyenne is still learning,” Gilley said of the guard. “Every day she learns something new. Because she is willing to put in the time mentally as well as physically, she had a game like she did today.”
Gilley also saw good things from Haley Bramblett. “Haley is one of those who is always willing to give up her body like getting on the floor for loose balls that help you win but doesn’t always show up in the stats,” he said. “She makes the ‘heart’ plays.”
Overall Gilley was pleased with the team’s effort. “We had one stretch at the beginning of the third quarter where we played not to lose rather than playing aggressively and to win, but we responded well and got our momentum back,” he said.
Switzerland Co. 41 HCHS 27
The Lady Cats returned to action Saturday and found their scoring touch had deserted them overnight as they managed just 27 points against the Pacers.
Neither team could find the basket early as the Pacers crept out to 4-point lead with 4:30 left in the opening period.
The Cats got two baskets in the period: The first from Coomes to cut the lead to 4-2 and the second from Ashten Pennington to make the first period score 9-4.
The Cats trailed at halftime by a score of 19-10 as both teams continued to struggle offensively. Coomes and Barmore led the Cats in scoring for the half with four points each.
In the third quarter the Cats closed to within 8 points before the Pacers stretched the lead out to 14 points to close the period.
The Cats managed 9 points in the final period but could not threaten the Pacers as the score never got closer than 12 points in the closing minutes.
Gilley was disappointed with the effort after the good performance against Carroll. “We need to remember why we’ve been more successful lately,” he said. “I thought we were not mentally ready to get on the floor and compete. That’s something that we have to take care of.”
Pulaski 61 HCHS 40
For the Henry County Lady Cats, their first game in the NAS Holiday Classic at Carroll County High School was a mixed bag. On one hand, they lost by 21 points. On the other, they showed marked improvement on the offensive end for three quarters. The Lady Cats managed to reach 40 points for the second time this year against a strong Lady Maroons team.
The game opened with Pulaski jumping out to 13-2 lead but the Cats fought to narrow the gap to 18-10 with Haley Bramblett and Cheyenne Clark each hitting a 3-pointer late in the period.
The second period opened with Pulaski maintaining a 10-12 point lead as the Lady Cats played some of their best offensive basketball of the season.
After Kim Barmore’s free throw made the score 26-15, Pulaski County scored two consecutive layups off turnovers to go up by 15 points. It looked like the Lady Cats were going to have one of those run of turnovers that spell disaster but the Lady Cats righted the ship and stayed within 15 the rest of the quarter.
In the third quarter, Pulaski County got hot from 3-point range and extended the lead to 21 points, but the Cats closed with 6-0 run that was capped by a nice layup in traffic by Clark to make it 51-36 going into the final period.
Pulaski County extended the lead back to 21 points with an 8-2 run to open the fourth quarter before both teams emptied their benches the rest of the way.
Gilley was pleased with the effort of his team despite the 21-point loss. “I felt like we took another step forward against a pretty good team that scores in the 60s and 70s,” he said. “One player averages 28 points a game and we held her to 20, but we made her work for every point she got.”
“Offensively, we did some things better. We scored 40 but had 36 by the end of the quarter before we got tired in the fourth period. We are getting more confidence from kids in key positions.
“Colleen Coomes is becoming a lot more vocal which is really helping us. We’re getting to where, when we make a mistake it doesn’t lead to another mistake. We are learning from our mistakes.”
Mercer County 63 HCHS 32
After winning their opening game against Campbellsville in the Food Pantry Classic, the Henry County Lady Cats took on the Mercer County Titans in the semi-finals and fell 63-32.
The Lady Cats struggled against the quick, athletic Titans who also shot the ball well from the field.
“They shot 50 percent from the 3-point line and 50 percent on 2-point field goals,” Gilley said. “They were excellent and they were a lot quicker than us. They were able to get us in a turnover situation, and since they were shooting so well, they could get into their press a lot.
“I thought they knocked us on our heels early and even though we tried to play hard, they were just too quick.
“It was like trying to catch a minnow.”
John Hardin 58 HCHS 29
In the 3rd place game of the Food Pantry Classic, the Lady Cats were able to hang in against the Lady Bulldogs early but the inside outside combination for John Hardin proved to be too much in the end.
“It was 4-2 midway through the first quarter but they had a 6’3” player inside and we had to double team the post but then they started hitting threes and we had to extend out a little,” Gilley said. “They had 8 threes in the game and 10 2-point field goals.”
Gilley hopes that the tough competition will make his team better going forward. “The good news is that we got a win in the opening round. The bad news is that puts us against two really good teams after that. Hopefully this will get us ready for the North American Steel tournament in Carrollton.”