LANCASTER¿— Cassandra McWhorter may have wasted a good halftime speech, but her team get the message before it was too late.
The Lincoln County girls coach watched during the third quarter as her team undid all the good things it had done in the first half Friday night, then watched as the Patriots did what they had to do in the closing minutes to pull out a 49-46 win over rival Garrard County.
They came out swinging not at the start of the second half, as McWhorter had hoped they would, but only after losing a double-digit lead. Lincoln responded late in the game, quickly regaining the lead and taking a firm grip on first place in the 46th District race.
The visiting Patriots spent the first half building a comfortable lead, and McWhorter spent her time in the locker room at halftime telling them to keep their foot on the gas in the second half.
“We’ve been struggling the third quarter all season long, and to come out after focusing on that at halftime and then lay that big goose egg is very disappointing,”¿McWhorter said. “And yes, I’m upset with it, but in the same breath, I’m happy that we could fight it out. Garrard came back, to their credit, and scrapped and outworked us the second half, but I’m pleased that we were able to fight and pull out the win as well.”
Lincoln (10-5, 2-0 district) took its largest lead at 35-21 with a basket 8 seconds into the second half, but the Patriots didn’t get another field goal for almost 10 minutes, and they watched as Garrard (10-6, 2-1) passed them by midway through the fourth quarter.
But that seemed to light a fire under the Patriots, who responded with an 8-1 run and didn’t allow a field goal in the final 4:03.
“I¿know that they realize they have to get those stops, and they’re doing a good job of that, but we’ve got to also find a way to keep that cushion and keep that lead once we get it and not let teams back in the ballgame,” McWhorter said.
Emily Fox scored 13 points to lead Lincoln, and it was her layup that tied the game after Garrard had tied the game.
But the biggest basket of the game came from Ciara Saylor, whose 3-point basket on the Patriots’ next possession gave them a 45-42 lead with 3:18 remaining.
The Patriots had created a turnover with a deflection by Kourtney Belcher and a steal by Fox, and Saylor sank her shot from just right of the key.
“We swing the ball, we get it to the open person, and she steps up and knocks it down. That’s a huge shot,” McWhorter said. “She needed that shot, our team needed that shot, and I was just happy to see it go in.”
Garrard coach Scott Bolin got a different feeling.
“That 3 that Saylor hit was just a stab in the gut,” Bolin said. “It was a huge shot.”
Consecutive layups by Belcher and Fox, the latter after another of Garrard’s 18 turnovers, stretched Lincoln’s lead to 49-44 with 1:58 to play, and the Lions never got another shot at the lead.
“We got the lead ... and didn’t execute down the stretch, but I told the girls, we were down (14)¿and, to their credit, we had a chance at the end, and that’s the grit and determination we’ve got to play with,”¿Bolin said. “Granted, we didn’t play with it at the beginning.”
The first half belonged to Lincoln, which scored 15 straight points — seven by Sydney Harris and four each by Fox and Belcher — in a span of 4:16 to take a 20-7 lead early in the second quarter.
The Patriots went 13 for 26 from the field in the first half and outrebounded Garrard 17-9, and McWhorter wanted nothing more than to see that continue in the third quarter.
“I’m happy with how we started the game. That’s probably the best first half that we’ve had all season. And I went in at halftime and I really emphasized that we’ve got come out the second half and act like it’s 0-0 and do the same thing we just did,”¿she said.
Instead, Lincoln went 1 for 13 in the third quarter and saw Garrard score 11 straight points to tie the game at 36-all in the first minute of the fourth quarter. The Lions went on top 3 minutes later when a hook shot by Devin Conley gave them a 42-40 edge with 4:04 remaining before the Patriots regained control.
Down by three, Garrard got one last chance to tie the game with 11 seconds to go, but the Lions couldn’t get off a 3-point shot.
Conley and Kelly Smith led Garrard with 13 points each, while Harris had 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for Lincoln, which held a 30-25 edge on the boards.
Lincoln County 16 33 36 49
Garrard County 7 21 35 46
LINCOLN (10-5)¿— Sydney¿Harris 10, Kourtney Belcher 8, Ciara Saylor 5, Emily Fox 13, Rachel Spangler 3, Chansler Gilbert 2, Tiandra Hocker 8.
GARRARD (10-6)¿— Victoria Floyd 4, Ryan Cain 2, Kelly Smith 13, Devin Napier 9, Devin¿Conley 13, Autumn Murray 3, Madison DeBord 2.