MORTONS GAP — The Madisonville-North Hopkins girls’ basketball team overcame a lot in its game against Hopkinsville in the first round of the 2nd Region Tournament.
The Lady Maroons overcame another night where they had trouble holding onto the ball, overcame a vast difference in free throws between them and their opponents, and overcame a five-point deficit with 30 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and force overtime.
But in the end, the team fell just short in that extra period, losing to the Lady Tigers by a final score of 56-53.
“I’m 100 percent proud of my girls,” North coach Jeff Duvall said. “They fought, and they fought, and they fought. We played really well, we stuck to our game plan really well.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better game for them to go out
The first six minutes of the fourth quarter were, much like the rest of the game had been, a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair, featuring two ties and three lead changes, but Hoptown (23-8) seemed to break things open when senior Janiya Davis hit a 3-pointer to put her team up 44-42, and then senior Jaliyah Grubbs got a fast break layup to extend the lead to four.
North (18-13) was forced to foul with a minute left in the game, and although sophomore Breon Oldham missed her free throw, the Lady Tigers stole the ball back on the next possession and Grubbs hit one of two at the line to extend the lead to 47-42 with time ticking away.
Senior Molly Stone made a basket for the Lady Maroons to cut the lead to three, but North was forced to foul again and sent Oldham back to the line with 24.3 seconds left.
Oldham missed her free throw again, and after Stone pulled down the rebound, she raced up the floor and passed it up to senior Brynin Carver, who hit a three-point shot from the wing to tie the game.
“I didn’t see it any other way except Molly grabbing the rebound and taking off with it and her passing it to Carver and hitting a three,” Duvall said. “As soon as it left her hands, I knew it was good from where I was standing.”
Davis actually drew a foul from Stone with less than 10 seconds left to play in regulation, but missed both of her free throws and couldn’t get another shot off before the buzzer sounded, sending the game into overtime.
The extra period played out much like the fourth quarter, as the two teams went back and forth early, but Hoptown found itself up late in the period again and the Lady Maroons were once again forced to foul.
Freshman Courtney Peyton banked in a 3 for North to cut the lead to 54-53 with 29.5 seconds left, but Hoptown junior London Foster drew another foul and hit both free throws to put the Lady Tigers up three.
There was a wide difference in free throws between the two teams, and although Hoptown shot just 45 percent from the line, the team still took 29 free throws while North had just eight.
“A few calls didn’t go our way,” Duvall said. “You look at the free throws, they shot 29, we shot (eight), we got beat there. That’s our ball game right there.”
The Lady Maroons came down the floor to try and tie the game, but turned the ball over on a double dribble. Turnovers were a big problem for North, as the team finished the game with 23.
“They’re so fast, any time you make a turnover they’re going to shoot a layup. You can’t catch them,” Duvall said.
North sent Grubbs back to the line, but she missed both free throws, giving the Lady Maroons one more chance. But senior Jayda Civils misread the game clock, and fired up a shot from beyond half court that sailed wide left, and the Lady Tigers came down with the rebound to seal the game.
"Jayda said she looked up and she thought it said 0.5 instead of 5 seconds, and so she let it go,” Duvall said. “Just in the heat of the moment, and you’re not in that situation a whole lot where you have to press and press and press to get the last second shot. It happens.”
Junior Kalveona Pepper led the Lady Maroons with 21 points and 14 rebounds, finishing her season with 16 total double-doubles.
“They couldn’t stop her,” Duvall said. “She got fouled all night long. Their girl (junior Zakyra Stallworth) may have got two, three, maybe even five clean blocks, but (Pepper) got hammered all night long, and she played through it. She couldn’t get the call, but she played through it.”
Stone, Carver, and senior Irelane Enoch all finished with nine points, while Stone also pulled down a whopping 23 rebounds to finish her career with North.
“The funny thing is she only had six at the half, so she went and got all of those in the second half,” Duvall said. “She’s a senior, she was bound and determined, ‘I’m going to get every rebound I can get my hands on, because this is not going to be my last game.’ I’m sad to lose, but I’m so happy they played that hard.”
Although the season has come to an end for the Lady Maroons, Duvall said he was still proud of his team for all it accomplished.
“Everybody counted us out,” Duvall said. “We lost what, 85-90 percent of our scoring from last year? Everybody thought we were down, and a lot of people probably thought we wouldn’t win 18 games. “For the season, I’m happy. I’ll take 18 wins every year with a group like that. We have no drama, no talking back, no laziness, everybody plays hard, everybody has a good attitude. Any coach in America could take 18 wins with a group like that and be happy.”