No. 1 Marion County sends WC packing in 5th Region first round

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By Brandon Mattingly


Washington County vs. Marion County
87-23 Marion County
When: Thursday, Feb. 28
Where: Green County High School
Key players: WCHS - Kenya Turner MCHS – Haeli Howard, Patrice Tonge
Game highlights: The Commanderettes (16-14) had already seen what top-ranked Marion County (34-0) could do on two occasions this year, but that provided little help curbing the Lady Knight attack in Thursday night’s 87-23 Marion County win.

Washington County met the Lady Knights in the first round of the 5th Region tournament and MC wasted no time securing a second-round matchup with Elizabethtown on Sunday.

Marion County turned up the pressure from the outset, turning numerous Commanderette miscues into easy baskets and getting to the free throw line consistently. The Lady Knights scored the first 16 points of the game, including a senior Makayla Epps three and four points from senior Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, before senior Kenya Turner got WC on the board with a layup with less than two minutes to play in the first quarter.

Eighth-grader Haeli Howard had the biggest impact for Marion County off the bench, pouring in 10 points in the quarter’s final minute-and-a-half, including a pair of three-pointers.

“(Marion County) is already dangerous, but with Howard shooting like that they’re going to be really dangerous,” said Washington County Head Coach Bernard Smalley. “She played well again against Elizabethtown (in the second round) and she’s been giving them a big lift off the bench.”

With a 28-2 lead through the first quarter, the Lady Knights pulled even further out front early in the second with a pair of steals and five quick points. Junior Riquel Logan answered with a three for WC, but Howard responded right back with a deep ball of her own, then added a steal and a layup to push the lead to 33 points.

The Commanderettes were able to sporadically get the ball inside to Turner and junior Jennifer Keene, but those opportunities were outweighed by turnovers as Marion County coasted into halftime with a 56-12 lead.

The Lady Knights rode out the victory from there, outscoring Washington County 17-4 in the third quarter and 14-7 in the final period.

“I thought we handled their press well, but we didn’t stop their break or get back in transition,” Smalley said following the defeat. “You’re always disappointed with a loss, but I didn’t think we competed like I thought we would.”

The Commanderettes struggled to the tune of 9-of-39 (23.1 percent) shooting with 27 turnovers. Turner led the way for WC with 11 points and five rebounds.

Howard led all scorers with 22 points (4-of-5 from three-point range), followed by senior Patrice Tonge’s 17 and junior Alexus Calhoun with 15.

Overall, Smalley said he was pleased with the season his girls had.

“We can’t complain. We had a winning season at 16-14 and have a lot of kids coming back that played this year, so the future looks pretty good.”

Marion County went on to beat Elizabethtown (23-8) on Sunday, 65-43, to earn a spot in the 5th Region final against LaRue County (27-5) on Tuesday night after press time.