STANFORD — The Casey County girls took the long way to where they thought they would be all along.
The Rebels thought they would have a chance to play for the regional championship, and they’ll get that chance after rallying to beat Wayne County 54-46 in a girls 12th Region Tournament semifinal Saturday night at Lincoln County.
And their oponent today will be Lincoln County, the team that coach Randy Salyers told them last summer would be waiting for them.
“We played Lincoln County in a summer game, and after that summer game I told the kids, ‘Listen, girls, right there’s the team we’re going to be playing in the finals of the region,’” Salyers said. “At that time I thought that would come true if we drew on opposite sides, but a month and a half ago when Megan (Pittman) went down, I didn’t know for sure if it was true or not. I’ll be the first one to admit that I had my doubts.”
Salyers wasn’t alone. The Rebels were written out of the regional picture when they lost Pittman, their star center, to a knee injury just over six weeks ago. But they have pulled together in the postseason to win four straight games and earn a spot in the regional finals for the fourth time in five years.
“A few weeks ago, other than people in our camp, very few people thought we’d be here in this situation,” Salyers said. “It’s probably the most proud that I’ve ever been of any team that I’ve had.”
Terry hit consecutive 3-point shots early the fourth quarter to spark Casey (19-14), which had taken the lead for the first time in the final minute of the third period. Her second 3 gave the Rebels a 40-32 with 6 minutes, 23 seconds to play, and they refused to let it go.
“I didn’t think they were going in at all. The first one I shot I was pretty far away from the 3-point line. I thought it would be a big air ball, but it wasn’t,” Terry said. “It gave us a lot of confidence, saying, ‘We can beat this team if we just keep working hard.’”
Jasmine Johnson scored 20 points and Terry and Tiara Cochran had 11 each for Casey, which lost eight of 11 games after Pittman was injured Jan. 17 before turning things around in the 47th District Tournament. And Salyers said she got the Rebels rolling by scoring off a Wayne turnover 20 seconds into the second half to tie the game for the first time since the early going at 20-all.
Wayne (19-15) rebuilt a 29-24 lead, but Casey then scored eight straight points, including six by Johnson to go in front for the first time.
The Cardinals tied the game on Heather Rigney’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but a drive by Johnson to open the fourth quarter and the two 3s by Terry got the Rebels rolling again.
They led 47-38 before Wayne scored seven straight points, but the Cardinals got only one more the rest of the way and the Rebels sealed their win by hitting seven of eight free throws in the final 1:03.
Casey shot 43.9 percent from the field while Wayne shot 40 percent, and the Rebels committed only seven turnovers.
Wayne led 18-12 midway through the second quarter before Casey closed the first half with three points each by Johnson and Terry. Jamie Roberts scored 11 points in the first half for the Cardinals and led them with 17.
Now Casey gets another shot at Lincoln, which routed the Rebels 65-35 just 16 days ago and defeated them 46-43 on Dec. 30. Salyers said the Rebels have developed more confidence as they have learned how to play without Pittman, and he said they’re much better than they were even two weeks ago.
“The only thing I wish is that we had about another month,” he said.
12th Region Tournament
At Lincoln County
Casey County 10 18 32 54
Wayne County 13 20 32 46
CASEY (19-14) — Christin Terry 11, Lakken Miller 3, Jasmine Johnson 20, Sarah Beard 4, Tiara Cochran 11, Katie Douglas 5.
WAYNE (19-15) — Tashea Pyles 2, Samantha Sexton 12, Jamie Roberts 17, Jessica Hardin 12, Heather Rigney 3.