Darren Doyle, story: Madison Doyle, photos:
The Lady Cats' season didn't end as they would have wanted with last night's 64-60 loss to Muhlenberg County in the first round of the Region 3 Tournament, but according to Head Coach Kevin Jackson, who has been voted the Region 3 Girls' Coach of the Year, his team still has plenty of reasons to stay positive.
The Lady Cats finish the year with a record of 23-9, which is a school milestone for the total number of wins in a single season.
"I'm so proud of these kids. Even if we'd have won by 25 I couldn't have been prouder of the effort they played with," said Jackson. "We'd have been smiling right now had that been the case, but I can't be any happier with the effort they played with, especially the second half."
And a second half effort was imperative after the Lady Cats found themselves in a 31-20 deficit at halftime, after leading in the first quarter with a very solid start.
Edmonson County struggled to hit open shots in the second while Muhlenberg rooted their way into the paint and kept the Lady Cats off the boards. The Lady Mustangs were able to use the rebounding advantage to convert on second and third shots during several possessions.
The Lady Cats narrowed the gap in a strong comeback during the third as their full and half-court trapping defense began to cause Muhlenberg problems, allowing Edmonson County to convert in transition. Peyton Martin's steal and outlet pass to Caitlin Simon tied the game at 34 all after Simon's bucket with 3:50 left in the third, ending a 14-3 run by the Lady Cats.
The run was led by Simon's 34 point performance, with 23 of those coming in the second half.
Muhlenberg was able to recover with a run of their own and regained the lead, 45-40 going into the fourth.
The Lady Cats fought tooth-and-nail until the end, outscoring the Lady Mustangs 20-19 in the fourth, but it still wasn't enough as Muhlenberg held on for the win, ending Edmonson County's season.
"It hurts because we had a chance to win, and it hurts for Maddie," said Jackson. For the team's lone senior Maddie Cline, it was the last game she will play as an Edmonson County Lady Cat.
"It's Maddie's last game. We all talked about how we love Maddie and everything she'd done for our program this year," Jackson said.
Maddie finished with 3 points, which was a huge three-pointer that cut the Lady Mustang lead to 57-54 with 1:31 to go. The shot helped start another run for the Lady Cats. Maddie spoke about the difficulty of last night's loss.
"It was tough for me, knowing it was my last game, but I was very proud of my team last night," she said. "They didn't quit and they laid it all on the floor. That's what it means to be a Lady Cat. They didn't quit all year and helped make this the best senior year possible. These past four years will be memories that I'll cherish forever. I wouldn't trade anything for my time as a Lady Cat. I love my team and want to wish all the underclassmen luck in the coming season," she said.
In addition to Simon's 34 point performance, Katlins Collins added 9, Martin had 7, Skylar Lewis had 5, Cline had 3, and Lauren Ballance finished with 2.
The Lady Cats finish 23-9, the best record in the 43 year history of Lady Cat basketball. They were first runner-up in the District 12 Tournament, first runner-up in the Region 3 All A Classic, swept the Caveland Classic with four wins, saw Peyton Martin join the 1,000 point club, while Coach Kevin Jackson was voted Region 3 Girls Coach of the Year.
The Lady Cats will have four returning starters for next season.
"I told our kids that only one team in the state gets to end their season with a win, and that's the one team that wins the state championship," said Jackson. "Everybody else experiences what we did tonight, just maybe later in the season. It's going to hurt for a few days, but we're going to celebrate with these kids here in a little while. The best record in 43 years is something to be proud of. With the run we got on mid-season, if that's not exciting for next season, I don't know what is."