Lady Golden Eagles fall to Pikeville

Johnson Central’s Alaina Castle drives to the basket for a shot Tuesday night agaisnt Pikeville in the 15th Region championship. The Lady Golden Eagles fell to the Lady Panthers, 53-35.

Pikeville was looking for redemption.

Redemption came in the form of a 53-35 win over Johnson Central and the 15th Region championship. 

The Lady Panthers fell to Johnson Central 56-51 last season in the 15th Region championship.

“It was a lot of dedication and focus on our girls part because they could’ve quit after being so close last year,” Pikeville coach Kristy Orem said. “We talked about it all year. Our little hashtag was unfinished business and to see them bring them to fruition was huge.”

“This was our redemption year,” Pikeville senior Leslie Stewart said. “We thought that we lost for a reason and it was so we could win this year. It’s so great because I didn’t get to play last year because I got hurt on the tip. So coming back and playing my senior year and then, winning it is just awesome.”

Pikeville got off to a quick start. The Lady Panthers held Johnson Central scoreless in the first quarter. The Lady Panthers held an 11-0 lead after the first quarter of play.

“We’ve jumped out to quick starts all tournament,” Orem said. “It was such a hard thing to play that defense. It wasn’t a man-to-man which I’m known for, but it worked. Credit to my guys who made me do it.”

“That’s really what got us started,” Pikeville’s Kelsey Jo Tackett said. “We just have to come out strong and we knew that. We had to hit them in the mouth before they hit us in the mouth. That is our saying, ‘Hit them in the mouth.’ I’m just so proud of my team. I can’t explain it.”

The Lady Panthers added four more points to open the second quarter and start the game on a 15-0 run.

Johnson Central tried to settle in after that. The Lady Golden Eagles cut the lead to 22-12 at halftime.

Pikeville’s Kirsten Cole-Williamson finished game with 10 points and eight rebounds for Pikeville. Cole-Williamson was named the 15th Region Tournament MVP.

“When we score, I don’t care if we only score four points, I’m going to be so happy for my teammates on those two shots,” Pikeville’s Kirsten Cole-Williamson said. 

Seventh-grader Trinity Rowe led the Lady Panthers in scoring with a game-high 12 points. Tackett followed with 11 points, three rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. Grace Bartley added nine points, five rebounds, three steals and a steal. Stewart added nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Alivia Gearheart scored two points, pulled down six rebounds, dished out four assists and had two steals.

One of Pikeville’s keys over the past month of the season has been to simply have fun. The Lady Panthers did just that Tuesday night.

“Having fun is one has always been one of coach Orem’s major keys because she says we play better when we’re having fun and not stressing about everything,” Stewart said. “That’s what we try to do, have fun and play and love the game.”

Pikeville had five losses in the first month of play. Since, the Lady Panthers only have three losses. 

“It’s huge to play at Rupp Arena,” Pikeville coach Kristy Orem said. “For us to start off the year the way we did by losing five games in December it made us focus. Just like this draw, it was a blessing because it made us focus. I’m just extremely proud of our seniors and all of our kids how they stepped up.”

Johnson Central finished the season with an 18-14 record.

“Darrin (Rice) makes it hard for everybody,” Orem said. “I know they’re going to come out and expose my weaknesses and I know I have to take care of business against him. Their team really does a great job with the pick-and-roll action that they do. That’s a credit to him and how he works. We had to make sure we were ready to handle it. We didn’t handle it great every single time, but he’s a great guy. I’ve known him since the time I was in third grade and had his mom as a teacher. It’s a competition and I’m just glad to finally get one against him.”

Morgan Hopson led the way for Johnson Central with a team-high 11 points. Alaina Castle followed with nine points and six rebounds. Katelyn Fitch added seven points. Sammi Sites scored three for the Lady Golden Eagles. Farrah Montgomery, and Hannah Fitch each scored two points. Ashlee Belcher chipped in with one point. 

Pikeville will take on Barren County at noon next Thursday at Rupp Arena. This will be the first year that the Girls’ Sweet 16 will be played at Rupp.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Kelsey Jo Tackett said. “I can’t even explain it.”

“It’s crazy (playing at Rupp),” Tackett said. “It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. It really is the best feeling ever.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Kelsey Jo Tackett said. “I can’t even explain it.”

“It’s crazy (playing at Rupp). It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. It really is the best feeling ever.”

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