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Senior veterans lead Holmes back to 9th Region girls championship game to face top-ranked Ryle

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Holmes girls basketball coach Greg Ash said he might have been the most excited person in the team’s locker room after a 55-43 win over Conner in the 9th Region semifinals on Friday at BB&T Arena.

This is the fourth straight year that Holmes has made it to the regional championship game, but it’s Ash’s first year as head coach of the Bulldogs, so he got a little carried away.

Holmes sophomore guard Deara Stowers, left, tries to steal the ball from Maddie Burcham of Conner as she drives to the basket. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“We were all pretty excited, and me, for sure,” the coach said with a smile.

Two seniors who played on Holmes region championship teams the last two years were the leading scorers in Friday’s victory. Point guard Laila Johnson netted a game-high 17 points and forward Tyrah Englemon had 14.

Englemon also pulled down a team-high 14 rebounds and Johnson did a good job on defense. She limited Conner junior shooting guard Courtney Hurst to eight points, five below her season average.

“She’s an amazing player and I knew we had to shut her down,” Johnson said of Hurst. “That was a really big part of the game plan, shutting down all their shooters.”

Conner ended up shooting an anemic 29 percent (16 of 55) from the field. In the third quarter, the Cougars went 1-for-10 from the field and committed seven turnovers. That enabled the Bulldogs to open up a 37-25 lead and they maintained a double-digit margin through most of the fourth quarter.

“When you’ve got kids who have been here (to the regional tournament) and have won here, you can tell,” coach Ash said. “They were patient and did the things they needed to do to pull it out. That experience is invaluable.”

Holmes shot 37 percent (17 of 46) from the field and won the battle of the boards by a 32-27 margin with Englemon leading in that category.

“We just wanted to show everybody we’re still here,” Englemon said of carrying on her team’s success in the playoffs. “Especially, since this is our senior year, we want to keep it going,” Johnson added.

Holmes will play Ryle, the top-ranked team in the 9th Region bracket, in the championship game at 2 p.m. Sunday. In the opening weeks of the regular season, Ryle defeated Holmes, 31-46.

“I feel real good,” Ash said of facing the Raiders again. “The Ryle game was early in the season and a lot of things we have in now we didn’t have in then. I think we’ve got as good a shot as any.”

HOLMES   11  14  12  18  — 55
CONNER     9  14    2  18 — 43

HOLMES (21-7): Johnson 4 9 17, Graham 3 3 11, Stowers 3 1 8, Englemon 5 4 14, Lovell 1 0 2, Beckett 1 0 2. Totals: 17 17 55.

CONNER (23-9): Hurst 3 2 8, Jordan 2 2 6, Mclemore 2 2 6, Burnham 2 2 7, Drummond 1 0 2, Murphy 1 0 2, Strange 4 0 10, Kennedy 1 0 2. Totals: 16 8 43.

3-pointers: H — Graham 2, Stowers, Lovell. C — Strange 2, Burcham.

Ryle 66, Dixie Heights 59

The Ryle Raiders have two dynamic players in their starting lineup and they took turns leading the team to a 66-59 win over Dixie Heights in a 9th Region semifinal game on Friday at BB&T Arena.

Ryle junior guard Lauren Schwartz scored 13 of her 22 points in the the first half that ended with her team holding a 26-19 lead. In the second half, sophomore guard Maddie Scherr got 16 of her 23 points to help secure the victory.

Ryle sophomore guard Maddie Scherr puts up a shot before Celia Pelfrey of Dixie Heights can get to her. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

The Raiders needed points from both of those players to avoid an upset. The young Dixie Heights team that trailed by 10 points or more in each quarter came charging back each time. In the fourth quarter, Ryle had a 16-point lead that was reduced to five.

“Any coach doesn’t want that pressure, but for them to know when they’re in that kind of pressure situation that they can win those games is always a good thing,” said Ryle coach Katie Haitz.

The leading scorer for Dixie Heights was junior Grace Perry with 18 points, followed by Caroline Buddenberg with 16 and Celia Pelfrey with 15.

Late in the fourth quarter, Pelfrey hit her fifth 3-point goal to cut Ryle’s lead to 58-53. After Schwartz scored off an assist by Scherr, the Raiders made six of 10 free throws to secure the victory.

Haitz wasn’t happy with her team’s defensive performance. She said Dixie Heights got a lot of second-chance points because her players were not boxing out under the boards.

That’s something the Raiders will work on in practice before they meet Holmes in the regional championship game at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“On each possession, they should get only one shot and that’s something we’re going to have to be prepared for on Sunday,” Haitz said. “If we want to be successful and reach out goals, we’re going to have to make sure we do the little things like that.”

DIXIE HEIGHTS    5  14  16  24  — 59
RYLE                    17   9  19  21  — 66

DIXIE HEIGHTS (23-10): Perry 8 1 18, Pelfrey 5 0 15, Buddenberg 6 2 16, Lawson 2 3 7, Fields 1 0 2, McGinn 0 1 1. Totals: 22 7 59.

RYLE (27-6): Schwartz 8 5 22, Scherr 8 5 23, McGregor 5 0 10, Crittendon 2 0 4, Johnson 1 0 2, Douthitt 2 0 5. Totals: 26 10 66.

3-pointers: DH — Pelfrey 5, Buddenberg 2, Perry. R – Scherr 2, Schwartz, Douthitt.

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