Strong finish: Commanderettes end regular season with back-to-back wins

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By Brandon Mattingly


Washington County @ Fort Knox
50-28 Washington County
When: Saturday, Feb. 16
Where: Fort Knox High School
Key players: WCHS - Kenya Turner, Jennifer Keene
Game highlights: The Commanderette basketball team (15-12) closed out the regular season with wins in five of their final seven contests, including back-to-back victories to head into this week’s district tournament on the right foot.

The season ended on Saturday at Fort Knox, when Washington County handed the Lady Eagles (1-26) a 50-28 loss.

The Commanderettes didn’t get off to the hot start that the final score or Fort Knox’s season record might suggest, but they were able to gather themselves for a convincing road win.

“We got a W,” said Washington County Head Coach Bernard Smalley. “We didn’t exactly play that well, but any time you can go on the road and get a win, that’s a plus.”

Fort Knox, who has lost 26 of their 27 games by an average margin of 30 points, was was able to hang with the Commanderettes in the first half. WC held a 10-6 lead after the opening quarter and took a 19-10 advantage into halftime before turning it on in the second half.

“We came out a little sluggish, but you know, we played four games last week and that probably had something to do with it,” Smalley said. “We came out in the third and fourth quarter and were able to get a comfortable lead and coast.”

The inside presence of senior Kenya Turner and junior Jennifer Keene was too much for Fort Knox in the second half, as Washington County took a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter on their way to a 22-point win.

Turner had 17 points and nine rebounds to led WC and was nearly mirrored by Keene’s 16 points and nine boards. The Commanderettes struggled from the field — 34 percent shooting, including 1-of-11 from three-point range — hounded Fort Knox for 17 steals; six for freshman Nic Brizendine, four for Keene and three each for junior Riquel Logan and freshman Lexi Thompson.

Washington County vs. Burgin
67-60 Washington County
When: Friday, Feb. 15
Where: Washington County High School
Key players: WCHS - Kenya Turner, Riquel Logan BHS - Summer Burke, Taylor Sanders
Game highlights: The home regular-season slate also ended in Washington County’s favor with a hard-fought 67-60 victory over the Burgin Lady Bulldogs (13-14).

Once again it wasn’t an ideal start for the Commanderettes, who fell  behind thanks to a familiar nemesis — an opponent with an outside stroke.

Burgin senior Taylor Sanders knocked down four three-pointers to put her team in front 20-12 after the first quarter. It didn’t take WC long to get back to their bread and butter, feeding the post, to turn things around.

Turner scored eight points late in the first quarter to keep the deficit at single digits and Keene scored six of her own in the second quarter to help close the gap to three points at halftime.

A Turner three-point play gave WC its first lead of the game at 34-32 early in the third quarter, and Logan pushed the Commanderettes to a 45-39 lead with a quarter to play with three three-pointers, including back-to-back shots that had WC in front by as many as eight points.

The fourth quarter, however, belonged to Turner, who was celebrating senior night.

“They didn’t have an answer for her,” Smalley said. “In the second half, she scored five or six straight trips down the court. She’s got the ability to do that when she puts it in her mind that she wants to play. I told her in a timeout, ‘It’s your senior night, put the team on your back,’ and she did, I thought.”

Turner posted 13 of her game-high 28 points in the final period, much of that coming early in the quarter as WC’s lead swelled to double-digits.

Burgin did make a late rally, with junior Summer Burke attacking the basket and Sanders knocking down a three with 22 seconds left to make the score 61-58. Brizendine — 4-for-4 — and Turner — 2-for-2 — sealed the victory with late free throws, though.

Logan had 14 points on four three-pointers to follow Turner, with Keene and freshman Taylor Eldridge adding eight points each.

Sanders and Burke were the top scorers for the Lady Bulldogs with 18 points a piece.

Washington County @ LaRue Co.
53-45 LaRue County
When: Tuesday, Feb. 12
Where: LaRue County High School
Key players: WCHS - Kenya Turner, Jennifer Keene
Game highlights: The last time Washington County came up on the wrong side of the scoreboard was last Tuesday at LaRue County (23-5), but it may have been their most impressive loss of the season.

LaRue County, along with Elizabethtown, has been touted as the best chance at a 5th-Region road block for No. 1-ranked Marion County in their quest for their first state title. The Commanderettes, who’ve not faired well against the top competition in the region this season(0-5 vs. Marion County, Nelson County and Elizabethtown entering the game), showed that they’ve taken a step forward in a close battle with the Lady Hawks.

“Let me tell you, I hate a loss, but that was a good loss,” Smalley said. “That was the No. 2 team in the region and we went toe-to-toe with them. They’ve got two quality, probably all-state ballplayers, and they’re the only team in the region that’s bigger than us. Our kids played well and we were only down one point with three-and-a-half minutes to go. If we can bring that intensity to the district tournament, it could be very interesting.”

Washington County actually held an 11-7 lead after the first quarter and stayed with the Lady Hawks throughout the half, trailing 25-24.

LaRue County pushed the lead to five points after three quarters, but WC stayed in the game with a strong inside presence once again — 17 points and 13 rebounds for Turner, 15 points and five boards for Keene.

The Commanderettes were able to make it a game late, but didn’t have enough in the tank to pull out the victory in a 53-45 defeat.

Washington County takes on Bethlehem (7-15) on Thursday at WCHS at 6 p.m. in the first round of the 19th District tournament. A win would mean the Commanderettes host the championship game at on Saturday at 7 p.m.