CALHOUN — Ohio County High School’s girls’ basketball team refused to fold on Monday night — and that perseverance has put the Lady Eagles in the 3rd Region Tournament for the first time in six years.
Kelsey Kennedy scored 19 points and Ohio County made big plays at both ends down the stretch in a hotly contested 53-50 conquest of host McLean County in the opening round of the girls’ 10th District Tournament.
The Lady Eagles (18-12), who have won eight of their last nine games, will challenge No. 1 seed Muhlenberg County at 7 p.m. on Wednesday for the championship.
“We battled and battled,” Ohio County coach Matt Brigance said. “We’ve been preparing for (McLean County) for a month, and we’ve played really good basketball at the end of the season.
“I thought we really played tough in the second half with the game on the line. McLean County is a great basketball team, but I thought we were able to make some good adjustments in the second half — our girls wanted this one bad.”
The Lady Cougars (16-12) led 43-42 after a Bailie Walker free throw at 2:44, but Heaven Vanover hit a six-foot baseline shot at 2:30 and Rain Embry followed with a conventional three-point conversion out of a timeout to stretch the lead to 47-43 at 1:38.
Two Kelsey Kennedy free throws stretched the Lady Eagles’ advantage to 50-44 at 0:48, but McLean County scored six of the next eight points — pulling within 52-50 after two Natalie Patterson free throws at 0:08.
Ohio County’s Madison Smith, fouled at 0:05, made the second of two foul shots to make it a three-point game, and Kamryn McMahon — attempting to tie the game — missed a 3-pointer just before the final horn.
“This game was about what I expected it to be, a real battle,” Lady Cougars coach Arlando Johnson said. “I was proud of the way we played with heart and grit at the end.
“Ohio County played a little better and made a few more plays than we did — that was the difference.”
McLean County led 13-11 at the end of the first period, and McMahon scored six points to help the Lady Cougars outscore Ohio 14-9 in the second quarter and seize a 27-20 lead by intermission.
The Lady Eagles came to life in the third quarter — getting a pair of Addie Bullock 3-pointers — and another trey by Ella Gaddis provided Ohio County a 36-34 edge entering the final eight minutes.
It was a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way.
Kennedy led all scorers with 19 points, including four key free throws in the fourth quarter. Rain Embry paced Ohio County with 11 rebounds.
The Lady Eagles finished 14-of-37 from the field (38%), made 18-of-25 foul shots (72%), secured 33 rebounds, and turned the ball over 13 times.
McMahon scored 15 points and Walker added 12 for McLean County, which also got a game-best 14 rebounds from Makena Rush-Owen.
The Lady Cougars were 18-of-54 from the floor (33%), hit 13-of-19 foul shots (68%), matched Ohio with 33 rebounds, and only committed five turnovers.
MCLEAN COUNTY 13-14-7-16 — 50
OHIO COUNTY 11-9-16-17 — 53
McLean County (50) — McMahon 15, Walker 12, Rush-Owen 6, Patterson 6, Johnson 4, Hampton 4, Burrough 3.
Ohio County (53) — Kennedy 19, Bullock 8, Embry 6, Vanover 6, Probus 6, Gaddis 5, Sandefur 2, Smith 1.