The 39th district tournament tipped off Monday night with a bang.
The Fieldhouse was packed to the brim with Mason and Bracken County fans patiently waiting the first game of the night, a matchup between the Mason County Lady Royals, and the Bracken County Lady Bears.
You could not dream of a more evenly contested pairing than Mason and Bracken County, with both teams pining for first place in the district all season long. The game tipped off at 6 p.m. Monday night, with Bracken County putting up the first points on the board.
Mason County fell behind early on in the game with a difficult first quarter. Lady Bears’ Ella Johnson was on fire in the first quarter, scoring half of the teams 12 points going into the second. Mason County was not as hot however, with Avery Sims being the only Lady Royal to put up points in the first, making the game 12-3 going into the second quarter.
The Lady Royals don’t have an ounce of quit in them however. They exploded at the start of the second quarter, putting up seven points before the Lady Bears were able to score another point. Mason County was able to tie the game up 15-15 midway through the second, but the Lady Bears pulled back ahead 24-20. Mason County was down, but they weren’t out. they were happy that they had brought the game back to a winnable deficit heading into the second half.
“We’ve been preparing for this since we played them at our place a month ago. We knew whoever we got in the district we was gonna have to play really good, and we’ve been focusing on our defense and our free throws, and both of that was worked out tonight for us.” said Lady Bears head coach, Troy Archibald.
“We just worked hard and practiced our coverage, and doing the things that we do everyday.” said Lady Royals head coach, Paula Buser.
Mason County returned to the court in the third quarter eager to prove that they were not going to go down easy. The Lady Royals outscored the Lady Bears 10-8 in the third, bringing the game even closer, with the score 32-30 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Bears weren’t about to let Mason County run away with the win after having stayed on top for much of the game, and flew ahead in the fourth, almost doubling thier score in the first half, scoring 23 points in the final quarter alone. Mason County did all they could to keep up with the Lady Bears, but just couldn’t get their shots to fall.
“We didn’t put the ball in the basket. And we didn’t attack the basket as much as we should have, but we put them at the free throw line they made theirs and we missed several. That’s just part of the game. You just have to learn from it and move on.” said Buser.
Free throw shots were what killed the Lady Royals Monday night, with 23 of Bracken County’s 55 total points being shot from the line.
“We knew it was gonna be a tight game, we talked about it, defense and free throws. And tonight thank God we hit our free throws. I’ve told the girls from day one, free throws win games, defense wins championships.” said Archibald.
Bracken County’s defense really shined Monday night. They didn’t give the Lady Royals an inch to move, and had 29 defensive rebounds by the end of the game. The Lady Bears’ aggresiveness was what allowed them to stay on top of Mason County. With the Lady Bears being ahead, they were able to take the time they needed to make their shots, and focus on keeping Mason County from scoring.
“I’m proud of our kids, I’m proud of our seniors, I’m proud of our bench, everybody worked hard to get to this point, it’s just a shame we didn’t finish the job.” said Buser.
The Bracken County Lady Bears came out on top of Mason County 55-44, and will move on to the championship game Thursday night, and on to the regional tournament next week.
“We told them if they showed up ready to play, and out worked the competition tonight, and believed, that they would come away with a win. And I think they did all three of those things tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of them.” said Archibald.
BRACKEN CO. 12 12 8 23 55
MASON CO. 3 17 10 14 44
Bracken Co. (55) Archibald 16, Riley 1, Johnson 23, Sharp 6, Bauer 9. 3-Pt. FG: 8 (Johnson 4, Bauer 2, Archibald, Sharp) FT: 23-32. Fouls: 21. Fouled out: Riley, Sharp.
Mason Co. (44) Burns 16, Payne 3, Young 6, Littleton 9, Simms 10. 3-Pt. FG: 5 (Littleton 2, Simms 2, Young) FT: 13-22. Fouls: 24. Fouled out: Young.