BOWLING GREEN – Marshall County survived a dismal third period and toughed out a 56-52 victory over Letcher County Central Thursday night in a first-round game of the Houchens Industries KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 basketball tournament at Diddle Arena.
Taylor Meadows led the way with 18 points, with Mariah McKenty close behind with 17.
Kelah Eldridge had 17 to pace Letcher Central.
Marshall County, 27-9, advances to the quarterfinals and a matchup with Notre Dame, which needed overtime to defeat Madison Central 57-53, at 8 p.m. Friday.
The Lady Marshals, who led by as much as 12 points in the second period, saw Letcher Central cut the lead to 31-27 at halftime.
Then, the Lady Cougars ran off nine straight points to open the third period, going up 36-31 before Marshall County coach Joseph Simmons called time out.
Marshall County gave up on four points the rest of the way, but they only got four themselves – on two free throws by Alex Brown after going scoreless for six minutes, and on a jump shot by Meadows with 1:37 on the clock.
Marshall County snapped out of the doldrums in the final period, scoring the first five points to forge a 40-40 tie.
The game was tied at 42, 44 and 46 before Marshall County went ahead for the first time since early in the third period, at 48-46. The leading points came after McKenty deflected the ball, Bailey Greer recovered, and McKenty nailed a jumper in transition from the right corner.
They never trailed and never allowed the Lady Cougars to draw even again.
With just under two minutes to go and Marshall County leading 50-46, Letcher Central came out of the zone it had relied on. The Lady Marshals spread the offense and Toni Fehrenbacher got a drive to the basket to make it 52-48 with 1:40 to go.
Letcher Central got two free throws from Julie Cornett to make it 52-50, and then went to a full-court press. Bailey Greer was fouled and made the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity, and Eldridge scored on a driving layup to pull the Lad Cougars to within one.
McKenty hit one of two free-throws, and with nine seconds to go, Eldridge misfired on a jumper that would have tied it with nine seconds to play.
McKenty went back to the line with seven seconds to go and hit both charity tosses for the final margin. Eldridge missed a desperation three-pointer as time ran out.
Letcher Central, champions of the 14th Region, closed with a 29-6 record. They had a 17-game winning streak going into the Sweet 16.