Cougars will take on McNicholas on Friday night in Mason.
NEW CARLISLE — Kenton Ridge is out to prove doubters wrong.
After losing to Greater Catholic League teams three out of the last four years in the district finals, the Cougars had heard it before. “You they can’t beat a GCL team. You can win the big one.”
They proved doubters wrong on the first part Saturday in a sectional final at Tecumseh with a 66-53 win over Carroll. The win gives Kenton Ridge a shot to beat another GCL team, this time in a district final, on Friday at 7 p.m. at Mason High School.
“I think we prove people wrong each year,” Kenton Ridge senior guard Sara Thornton said after the game on Saturday. “I love our team this year.”
Thornton played a big part in the win over Carroll. She scored 12 points, had 13 rebounds and had six steals. Sitting with only two points and no steals after three periods, Thornton exploded by recording all of her steals and pouring in ten of her points just in the final period.
Kenton Ridge (24-1) struggled against the bigger, more powerful Patriots for most of the first half, with Carroll taking advantage of the Cougars’ foul-trouble woes and man-to-man mismatches on the defensive end. Down 19-12 after one period of play and 32-28, Cougar head coach Ed Foulk realized something had to change. Their half court zone pressure in the second half propelled them to comeback and take the lead 45-41 at the end of three. Kenton Ridge outscored Carroll by a 38-21second half margin for the win.
“We tried to man them and they mismatched us a little bit on our switches, so we had to go to our zone and that sort of evened them up inside,” said Foulk.
In the early going, Patriot guard Kate Hickey scored eleven first-half points to help the early lead. In addition, Carroll forward Madison Schroeder and guard Caroline Austria were able drive aggressively to the basket and force the Cougars to foul, resulting nine free throws made and drawing foul-trouble for KR freshman post Jamari McDavid.
That forced Foulk to switch things up. They had to go small.
“I think we went up six points in the third quarter with Jamari out,” Foulk said. “We shot it well tonight and we played really good defense”.
Both Hickey and Austria were held scoreless in the second half.
Kenton Ridge goes to their fourth straight district final, and this year’s team is composed a little differently than the others.
“We usually have these four girls in double figures and that’s what we had today,” said Foulk.
Those four girls, all guards, contributed to the win in their own ways. Baylee Bennett was seven of eight from the charity stripe, hit two three-pointers and dished out 3 assists. She scored eleven of her 17 points in the second half.
“I think we settled down in the second half and just played our game, kept playing as a team,” Bennett said.
Sydney Bates, a 5’8” sophomore, knocked down four treys, three of those in the second half, on her way to a game-high 18 points while also hauling in six rebounds. Bates, is often called upon to guard much bigger players.
“After the first half I wasn’t shooting well and coach said ‘You can’t be putting them up if they are not going to go in’ so in the second half I was like (to myself) ‘calm down and make shots’,” said Bates.
When asked about how they overcome the size disparity in games Bates believes that it comes back to all of that practice time.
“We work on boxing-out in practice and if we don’t there is a punishment and we really focus on conditioning.”
Carroll coach Rob Berry knew that the four Cougars’ guards could shoot the basketball.
“They shoot well, and four guards is hard for us to match-up against because we like to play a big, traditional type and they don’t play that way, so it’s a tough match-up for us.”
Schroeder led Carroll with 14 points, while Hickey had eleven and freshman guard Morgan King contributed eight in the losing cause.
McNicholas upset Wyoming, the top-seed out of Cincinnati, 54-52 on Saturday to set up the district match-up. Carroll bet McNicholas 66-51 in December in a regular season game.