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Cooper gets past Ryle, 63-58, in showdown between 9th Region’s highest ranked girls basketball rivals

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

After winning 10 straight games by an average margin of 37.5 points, the Cooper girls basketball team faced a much more formidable opponent at home on Friday and kept their streak alive with a 63-58 win over Ryle.

In the final seconds, Cooper junior guard Liz Freihofer made four free throws and senior guard Whitney Lind came up with a key steal to secure the victory in a rematch between last year’s 9th Region finalists.

Cooper forward Logan Palmer looks for an outlet pass while being guarded by Sarah Baker of Ryle. (Photo by Zoey Hoffman)

The schools are located a few miles apart and have a long-standing rivalry, but that’s not the only reason the game drew a big crowd. In this week’s statewide media poll, Cooper was No. 4 and Ryle was No. 5.

“The last few games we’ve had pretty good win margins, but we knew coming in that Ryle was going to give us everything they had, being just a couple miles down the road,” said Cooper coach Justin Holthaus. “This was a good test to see where we’re at, and we’re probably going to see Ryle again so this was a good first step.”

Cooper and Ryle have met in the 33rd District final the last two years. Barring any upsets, they’ll do it again in February and that’s good news for basketball fans because their games are highly competitive.

With 27 seconds left in Friday’s game, Ryle senior guard Abby Holtman was fouled while making a desperation scoop shot and swished the free throw to put her team one-point behind at 59-58.

Whitney Lind

After Freihoifer made two free throws that gave the Jaguars a 61-58 lead, Lind tipped away a pass on defense and a teammate recovered it. Freihofer was fouled once again and made both free throws to nail down a five-point victory.

Lind finished with a game-high 27 points, but her biggest play might have been stealing the pass that denied Ryle a chance to tie the score.

“One of our big keys this year is defense,” Lind said. “We’re never going to give up on a play. I saw (the pass) and I was behind and said, ‘Got to get over’ and made the play. But that’s our defense, ball pressure and everything.”

Lind scored 16 of her 27 points in the first half that ended with Cooper holding a 37-24 lead, but Ryle went on a 13-2 run that reduced it to 39-37 in the third quarter. That was one of the crucial moments in the game for the Jaguars, who were able to regain the momentum.

Ryle guard Quinn Eubank tries to drive past Logan Palmer of Cooper. (Photo by Zoey Hoffman)

“As seniors, I feel like we have so much more confidence and mental toughness,” said Cooper senior guard Kay Freihofer. “In past years, we probably wouldn’t have been able to pull out a game like that, so it’s really cool to see how far we’ve come.”

The Jaguars were ahead, 48-41, going into the fourth quarter. The Raiders rallied once again and pulled to within 56-52 on a basket by junior center Sarah Baker, who got 14 of her 19 points in the second half.

Ryle did score on its next three possessions, but Cooper made seven of its final eight  free throws to come away with the win.

“I’m upset that we lost, but I’m not upset with the effort we had,” Baker said. “I know that this game will light a fire under us. We’re going to work even harder now because we have something to prove.”

Lind has been a double-figure scorer in 10 consecutive games for Cooper. Ryle launched its comeback in the third quarter after she went to the bench with three fouls. She returned to score nine of her team’s last 21 points.

“Whit’s really come on. She’s been our leader and captain,” coach Holthaus said. “She did a really good job of kind of keeping us connected in key moments and hitting shots.”

COOPER  20  17  11   15 — 63
RYLE        14   10  17  17 — 58

COOPER (13-2): Lind 11 4 27, L. Freihofer 3 4 11, K. Freihofer 5 2 13, Palmer 2 0 4, Alexander 3 0 8. Totals: 24 10 63.

RYLE (14-5): Holtman 6 1 16, Eubank 8 0 17, Johnson 0 1 1 , Baker 9 1 19, Jones 2 1 5. Totals: 25 3 58

Three-point goals: C — Alexander 2, Lind, K. Freihofer L. Freihofer. R — Holtman 3, Eubank.

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