MURRAY – Marshall County got a go-ahead bank-in basket from sophomore Alyssa Barnard with 26 seconds to go and held on to defeat Murray and win the First Region girls basketball championship for the second year in a row Tuesday night at the CFSB Center.
The victory came over a Lady Tigers team that had beaten Marshall County three times, most recently 70-69 in double overtime to claim the district championship title.
It came in spite of a 23-point performance by Murray senior point guard Janssen Starks and a game in which the Lady Marshals’ leading scorer, Taylor Meadows, got only two points, on a pair of second-quarter free throws.
It came despite a tremendous comeback effort by Murray, which fell behind 16-4 in the first quarter, carved the lead down to two points in the third period, forged the game’s first tie since 2-2 on the first basket of the final period, and led by three points at 39-36 with 48 seconds left in the game.
Marshall County cut the lead to 39-38 on a jumper by senior Mariah McKenty with 38 seconds left.
After a Marshall time-out, Murray was unable to get the ball inbounds and had to call a time-out. When play resumed, Starks got the ball in to Julie Thiede, but the junior center, who was heavily defended, stumbled after catching the pass and was whistled for traveling.
Meadows drove the lane, saw Barnard unguarded on the low post and whipped a pass to her. Barnard banked it in to give the Lady Marshals a 40-39 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Starks tried a long pass to Maddie Waldrop, but the ball sailed out of bounds over her head, giving the ball back to Marshall County.
Murray, which had been called for only five fouls, lost time committing two fouls before the Lady Marshals went to the free-throw line for a bonus attempt.
Sophomore Bailey Greer, who had hit 14 of 16 free throws in an upset win over Paducah Tilghman in the semifinals the night before, hit the front end to make it a two-point lead. She missed the second shot.
Starks drove the length of the court and sliced into the lane, putting up a shot. It missed, and Barnard grabbed the rebound as the clock ticked inside 10 seconds.
The Marshals quickly moved the ball and burned most of the time off before Thiede fouled Meadows. The senior missed the front of the bonus, but the 1.6 seconds left melted away before Murray could get off a shot.
McKenty led the Lady Marshals with 15 points. Greer and junior Toni Fehrenbacher added eight points apiece.
Post players Barnard and senior Alex Brown chipped in four points apiece and 20 rebounds, 13 of them going to Barnard.
Meadows, who led the win over Tilghman Monday night with 20 points, was named most valuable player. McKenty, Greer and Barnard were named to the all-tournament team, along with Starks and teammates Thiede and Kalai Trice, Tilghman’s Chelsey Shumpert and Alex Kohler, Graves County’s Taylor West and Bailey Hawkins and Lone Oak’s Haley Boyd.
Marshall County advances to the Sweet Sixteen at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green for the second year in a row. They take a 26-9 record against Letcher County Central, 29-5 champions of the 14th Region, on Thursday of next week. The game is at 6:30 p.m., the first game of the evening session.
Tickets go on sale in the lower lobby of Reed Conder Gymnasium Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. to players’ parents and at 7:45 a.m. to the general public. Cost is $9.