The Eminence girls' basketball team ran into a road block in the opening round of the 30th District tournament Monday night, resulting in a season-ending 64-9 loss.
That road block was Shelby County - a team that entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed with an impressive 20-8 record, has won eight of its previous nine games, won the district title a year ago, and had easily defeated Eminence earlier this year (54-18). Shelby is also a team that's favorite to win the 8th Region tournament next week, and sports a starting lineup that includes four seniors and one junior.
Meanwhile, Eminence has a 3-23 record, hasn't won a district championship since 1993 and sports a starting lineup that includes one senior, two freshmen and two eighth graders. At least for this year, it wasn't much of a matchup.
It wasn't pretty for the Lady Warriors Monday night at Spencer County High School.
"I cannot be angry at a bunch of young ladies that go out and play as hard as they did against a team like Shelby," Eminence coach Carter Martin said afterwards. "I think we played very hard, we just didn't hit anything. And I saw some good things."
Rachel Metcalfe put the ball on the floor and took it to the hole stronger than she had all season, Martin said, while the Lady Warriors executed the pick-and-roll much better.
"It's the little things that we will correct to get much better in the future," the upbeat coach said.
In the first game at districts, Shelby (20-8, 8-1 region, 6-0 district) jumped all over the Lady Warriors. The Lady Rockets scored a basket less than five seconds after the jump ball and scored the games first 13 points.
Eminence (3-23, 0-11, 0-4) finally managed to find the bottom of the net with 3:23 left in the first quarter when Kaelin Wright swished two free throws after being fouled on a shot attempt. With 35 seconds remaining in the same quarter, Rachel Raisor knocked down a three-pointer from the top of the key to leave the score at 21-5 heading into the second period.
Shelby started out in a three-quarter-court trap defense, which gave Eminence early fits that resulted in numerous turnovers and tired players. The Lady Rockets then switched to a half-court defensive set midway through the opening quarter, allowing Eminence to breath a little.
The only basket Eminence managed to score during the second quarter was from a driving layup from a determined Raisor, who finished with a season-low five points. The freshman point guard, who handles the dribbling responsibilities for Eminence and leads the team in scoring, picked up her third foul with 3:54 left in the second, sending her to the bench.
With Raisor sidelined, Carter tried Kelli Hawkins, the lone senior on Eminence's team, at the point. He later switched to eighth grader Katie Mathis to give the exhausted Hawkins a break. By the time the first half came to an end, Shelby had jumped out to a 38-7 advantage.
The Lady Warriors didn't score during the third quarter, and added just two more points during the fourth when Metcalfe scored on a jumper with just 50 seconds remaining in the game. It was Eminence's first basket in more than 21 minutes. Since that time, Shelby had rolled off 41 unanswered points.
While Eminence had just three Lady Warriors score points, Shelby got plenty of output from its bench with 12 different players scoring.
The Lady Rockets, who will play the winner of Spencer County and Anderson County for the district title this Friday at 7 p.m., finished the contest ahead by 55 points and held Eminence to just nine. The only other team to hold Eminence to single digits this season was Henry County (46-9) on Jan. 25.
The Lady Warriors' three wins have come against Riverside Christian (42-33), Brown (28-19) and Silver Grove (39-31). It was an improvement from last year's 1-24 squad, but only a stepping stone for future seasons with the young and inexperienced team.
"I thought my team did very well as the season progressed," said Martin, who will start his third season as the head coach next fall. "I expect them to come in and do even better next year. They will take away a lot of things from this year. I know they didn't get down on themselves after this game (against Shelby), and they're willing to come back and learn some things."
Raisor will return as a five-year varsity starter, while Eminence should also get help from its younger players and Candace Wells - a sophomore this season who was second on the team in scoring and one of the top rebounders but had a season-ending ankle injury three weeks ago.
"I'm already looking forward to next year, and I think they are, too," Martin said.
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