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Despite a promising 20-13 halftime lead, the Washington County Commanderettes (2-11, 1-5) were unable to pull out their third win of the season against the Caverna Lady Colonels (12-7) in the Fifth Region All-A Classic.
As the host team, WC had a bye for the first round of the tournament and met Caverna in the semifinals after the Colonels’ defeat of the Campbellsville Lady Tigers.
And WC started the game off strong defensively, holding the high-powered Colonels offense to only four first-quarter points.
One of the main keys to success for the Commanderettes was the implementation of a box-and-one against one of the top scorers in the state, Madison Faulkner.
Head Coach Bernard Smalley credited sophomore Taylor Eldridge and seniors Amber Grigsby and Courtney (CJ) Jones with frustrating Faulkner throughout the first half, only allowing her to score three points.
“You’ve got to give those girls credit,” Smalley said. “Our game plan was to slow her down, and that’s just what we did in the first half. That really slowed them down as a team.”
An 8-4 run at the end of the second quarter gave the Commanderettes a seven-point advantage heading into the locker room.
In addition to neutralizing Faulkner, WC outrebounded Caverna 19-12 in the first half and committed six turnovers to the Colonels’ eight.
Senior center Jennifer Keene was an integral part of the team’s first-half success, scoring 10 of her 14 points in the half against the guard-oriented Colonels.
Considering their strong play in the first two periods, Smalley and his team were poised heading back out for the second half.
“We were pretty confident,” Smalley said. “Their guards were missing threes, and we were pretty satisfied at that point that we would be able to stop them after that. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out like that.”
Caverna was able to break out of their slump quickly after halftime, cutting the Commanderettes’ lead to just one in just over four minutes.
And by the end of the period, the Colonels were able to take a 28-27 lead, thanks in part to a zero-turnover quarter.
An Eldridge jumper from the charity stripe tied the game at 31 with six minutes left in the contest.
But an immediate 7-0 run by Caverna would end up being the game because it forced WC to shift out of their box-and-one, allowing Faulkner to explode in the final minutes of the game.
By the end of the contest, she had poured in 16 second-half points and led her team to a 49-35 victory to move onto the finals.
WC was led in scoring by Keene, followed by six points apiece from sophomore Lexi Thompson, junior Jadiesha Durham and Eldridge.