LEXINGTON — Talk about delivering the goods.
Facing a daunting Scott County team that had lost but once in 35 games, Owensboro Catholic put together one of the program’s signature performances on a big stage Friday afternoon — shocking the favored Lady Cardinals 62-51 in the quarterfinals of the KHSAA Girls’ State Basketball Tournament in Rupp Arena.
The Lady Aces (29-7) — breaking through to the semifinals for the first time — face another heavyweight contender, 9th District champion Ryle (32-5), at 5:30 p.m. (CT) today with a spot in Sunday’s championship game on the line.
“I can’t say enough about this bunch,” said Catholic coach Michaal Robertson, whose team held Scott County 31 points below its per game scoring average. “They’ve bought into what the coaching staff has tried to teach them, and they were outstanding in the way they carried out the game plan today.
“We knew, in the end, it was going to come down to defense. Our goal was to hold Scott County to 50 or fewer (points). We held them to 51 — that’s a tremendous effort and performance against a very talented team.”
Catholic, which has won 19 of its last 20 games, fell behind by six points on two occasions in the first period, but a 14-footer by reserve forward Ally Maggard pulled the Lady Aces within 17-13 shortly before the first break.
Sarah Beth Clemens hit a pair of 3-pointers in 13-5 run that pushed Catholic in front 26-22 midway through the second period, and Hannah McKay and Isabella Henning scored baskets inside the final minute of the first half to help secure a 30-25 advantage for the Lady Aces at intermission.
Clemens had nine points at halftime on 3-of-3 accuracy from 3-point range.
“Clemens was fantastic from 3-point land,” said Scott County coach Steve Helton, whose team had won 16 consecutive games since Jan. 19. “She’s a 6-footer out there, and she really hurt us with some timely 3s, no doubt about it.
“Their overall length definitely affected us — they were very long and it created a lot of mismatches.”
The Cardinals surged back in the third quarter, scoring 16 of the first 23 points of the second half to secure a 41-37 lead on a 14-footer by Maaliya Owens at 1:45.
But irrepressible junior forward Hannah McKay scored seven points over the final 1:31 of the period to pull Catholic within 45-44 entering the final eight minutes.
Led by McKay — who produced 16 points and 10 rebounds in the second half, alone — the Lady Aces simply dominated down the stretch.
After Catholic scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, a scoop shot by Juliette Smith and a fastbreak layup by Morgan DeFoor pulled Scott County within 50-49 with four minutes to play, but McKay scored a tough basket in the paint at 3:12 and the Cardinals never threatened again.
McKay, Mackenzie Keelin and Madelyn Lyon combined to make 10 clutch free throws in the final 1:54, and Catholic’s stellar defense thwarted any semblance of a late rally from Scott County.
“We knew coming in we could compete with them,” Clemens said of facing Scott County. “It was just a matter of going out and getting it done.”
McKay finished with a game-high 23 points and 15 rebounds, adding four assists. Clemens, who did not start, was 4-of-4 from distance and scored 16 points, with Keelin adding 12 points and Caroline Reid dishing four assists.
Catholic shot 44 percent from the field (19-of-43), was 5-of-8 from beyond the arc (63 percent), and made 19-of-26 foul shots (73 percent), which helped offset 12 turnovers and a 41-33 rebounding advantage for the Cardinals.
The Lady Aces limited Scott County (34-2) to 31 percent shooting (20-of-65), including 25 percent from distance (6-of-24). The Lady Cardinals were just 5-of-11 from the foul stripe (46 percent).
DeFoor scored 20 points to pace Scott County, which also got a game-best 18 rebounds from Malea Williams.
OWENSBORO CATHOLIC 13-17-14-18 — 62
SCOTT COUNTY 17-8-20-6 — 51
Owensboro Catholic (62) — McKay 23, Clemens 16, Keelin 12, Henning 5, Lyon 2, Harvey 2, Maggard 2.
Scott County (51) — DeFoor 20, Owens 11, Smith 11, M. Williams 5, Tompkins 2, Wise 2.