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John Millikan, The Messenger Hopkins County Central defender Rickara Hughes attempts to kick the ball away from Madisonville-North Hopkins' Emma Newcom during Tuesday's semifinal game of the 7th District Tournament. The Lady Maroons overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit to win and advance to Thursday's championship game.

The Madisonville-North Hopkins girls’ soccer team is headed back to the 7th District Championship game after Tuesday’s 4-1 win over rival Hopkins County Central.

Lady Maroon senior Mallory Howard wasn’t going to settle for anything less.

Moments before the start of the second half, Howard huddled her teammates together on the field and gave them a simple challenge.

“I told them that Central thinks they have won the game,” said Howard, whose Lady Maroons trailed 1-0 at halftime, “but we are going to come out and show them that they haven’t.”

Howard scored 24 seconds into the second half to tie the game at 1-1 and ignited a North rally to keep the Lady Maroons’ season alive. Central ended its season at 7-8-3, while North (9-10-1) will play Caldwell County at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the district championship game.

“We just have to compose ourselves and work hard against Caldwell County on Thursday,” Howard said. “We had a rough 4-2 loss to them in the season, but we had six starters out that game. I don’t think they are going to know what’s coming this time.”

North has defeated Caldwell County in the past three district title games by a combined score of 26-4. And while the Lady Maroons are riding a wave of energy after Tuesday’s second-half surge, the

Lady Storm had the momentum early in the semifinal matchup.

Central’s defense stood its ground against a constant attack from the Lady Maroons, and then on the Lady Storm’s only shot of the first half Kayla Knight scored with 1:42 on the clock to take a 1-0 lead into halftime.

“That was exciting,” Central coach Hannah Dick said. “But I think we actually might have gotten a little too excited, and when we came out for the second half we realized that we had to step up and play.”

Howard’s goal with 39:36 left in the second half set the tone for the rest of the night.

Kendell Adkins scored on an assist from Lexie Duncan with 28:59 left to give the Lady Maroons a 2-0 lead, and then Duncan scored two goals in the final 13 minutes to put the finishing touches on the victory.

“We knew they had that in them. We knew they could play like that,” North coach Ted Adkins said. “We started to look more like ourselves. We still need to do a better job at connecting on passes, but we did a better job in the second half.”

Isabelle Stanfield and Maci Daves had assists on the final two goals for the Lady Maroons, who outshot Central 22-2.

Central goalkeeper Shelby Simons made seven saves and was one of nine seniors to play their final game in a Lady Storm uniform.

“All of them have started at one point for us, so we will definitely miss this group,” Dick said. “These seniors grew up together. I was here five years ago and had most of them then. They learned how to play well with each other.”

North will be trying to win its eighth straight district title Thursday. Caldwell County last won a championship in 2011 in the 4th District.

“We have to come out ready to play and defend our home turf,” Adkins said. “When we played them earlier it was during a stretch when we had everybody out. We ended that game with 11 players and no subs, so we are anxious to come out and redeem ourselves.”

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