SOMERSET — The Garrard County girls needed a bigger rock.
Garrard took its best shot at a giant Friday night, but the blow only stunned Rockcastle County briefly before the Rockets trampled the Lions on their way to the girls 12th Region Tournament final.
Rockcastle withstood Garrard’s opening salvo, then fired back with 20 unanswered points on its way to a 64-43 semifinal victory at Pulaski County.
The Lions fell behind 27-8 while they went scoreless for a full 10 minutes, and the game was never close after that.
“Our effort was there, Rockcastle’s just good,” Garrard coach Scott Bolin said. “I’m proud of our girls. We had a great opportunity tonight, we fought hard and gave it our best effort. We just came out on the wrong end.”
Bolin knew his team faced long odds, and he tried to draw inspiration from one of the greatest underdog victories of all time, the biblical account of David’s defeat of Goliath. In a Facebook post Thursday, he quoted 1 Samuel 17:49-50, which describes the slaying of the giant.
But Garrard’s story had a different ending.
“Sometimes you don’t have a big enough rock,” Bolin said.
It was an even game for most of the first quarter, with Garrard (16-9) taking an 8-7 lead with 2:20 remaining in the period after getting five points from Devin Conley and three from Devin Napier.
But Rockcastle (31-1), the defending regional champion, took the lead just over a minute later on a basket by Michaela Hunter, then went up 11-8 on a buzzer-beating layup by Sara Hammond that was the McDonald’s All-American center’s first shot of the game.
And that was only the beginning. The Rockets put up another 16 points in a row while the Lions were plagued by poor shooting and turnovers.
They missed their first 10 shots and committed seven turnovers in the second quarter before Haley Meadows scored on a layup with 20 seconds left to keep them from being shut out for an entire period.
“With Rockcastle County, there’s no room for error. We played very well for 7 minutes, kind of controlled the tempo, made a couple shots and rebounded the basketball ... but you score two points in one quarter against the best team in the state or the worst team in the state, and you’re not going to get much done,” Bolin said.
Rockcastle went 6 for 9 from the field in the second quarter and shot 57 percent overall. Garrard finished the first half at 3 for 15 but went 12 for 21 in the second half to finish at 42 percent.
The Rockets outrebounded the Lions 27-18.
The teams played on nearly even terms again for most of the third quarter before the Rockets began to expand their lead again in the final seconds of the period. They scored eight straight points early in the fourth quarter to take their largest lead at 56-27.
Garrard has only one senior, and Bolin said the girls who return next season will benefit from their experience against Rockcastle and from their four postseason games.
“Getting to play in this atmosphere, getting the opportunity to get some of these kids some experience, Victoria Floyd getting to play against an All-American in Sara Hammond, that’s something that’s invaluable, and it’ll be great for us down the road,” he said. “It hurts right now, it hurts bad, but a week from now we’ll look back on it ... we’ll be happy with our season, and we’ll see we had a lot of success.”
Meadows, the lone senior, led the Lions with 16 points and five rebounds in her final game.
“I’ve watched Haley from a baby. I’ve watched her grow up, I’ve watched her play little league, I’ve watched her play middle school, I’ve had the fortune of coaching her, and I told her, ‘I appreciate everything you’ve done for the program, everything you’ve done for your teammates and everything you’ve done for me,’” Bolin said. “I’m truly, truly going to miss her, and I think of her as one of my own, just like I do all of them.”
Conley scored 15 points for Garrard, including seven in the third quarter.
Angie Lawrence scored 16 points and Hammond added 14 for Rockcastle, which won its 22nd consecutive game to extend the longest current winning streak for a Kentucky girls or boys team.
12th Region Tournament
At Pulaski County
Rockcastle County 11 27 45 64
Garrard County 8 10 22 43
ROCKCASTLE (31-1) — Sydney Arvin 5, Shanlee Burton 9, Sara Hammond 14, Kristin Abney 6, Angie Lawrence 16, Alexis Chasteen 2, Michaela Hunter 8, Ella McQueary 2, Kadi Cobb 2.
GARRARD (16-9) — Devin Napier 5, Autumn Murray 5, Haley Meadows 16, Devin Conley 15, Victoria Floyd 2.