By Terry Boehmker
UNION, Ky. – Boone County will return to the 9th Region girls’ basketball tournament next week with a scrappy team that just won’t quit.
In the 33rd District championship game on Thursday, the Rebels made just three field goals in the first half and still managed to come from behind to defeat Conner, 53-49, at Ryle High School.
“We just knew we had to come out in the second half and work really hard and work together as a team and things would fall in place for us, and that’s what we did,” said Boone County senior guard Dallis Knotts.
Both of the district finalists advance to next week’s 9th Region Tournament at the NKU Bank of Kentucky Center. The draw is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Holmes High School.
Boone County may not have the best record or the highest power rating in the eight-team regional bracket, but Knotts certainly considers the Rebels a contender after winning the highly competitive 33rd District playoffs.
“Don’t count us out,” Knotts said. “You never know where we’re coming from.”
The Rebels shot a dismal 11 percent (3 of 27) from the field in the first half of Thursday’s game, but they made 11 of 14 free throws and trailed by only two points, 19-17, at the break.
Early in the third quarter, Conner scored five straight points to take a 24-17 lead, but the Rebels showed their resiliency once again and pulled to within one, 33-32 by the end of the period.
Boone County took its first lead of the game with 6:51 left in the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws by junior guard Maddy McGarr that made it 35-33.
The score remained close until the Rebels ran off five straight points to open up a 47-41 lead. But a three-point basket by Conner sophomore guard Taylor Gambrel cut it to 47-44 with 1:20 left on the clock.
After Boone County committed a turnover on its next possession, Conner had a chance to tie the score with a 3-pointer. But Knotts came up with a steal and scored on a fast-break layup to keep her team in control.
“That was huge,’’ Boone County coach Nell Fookes said. “She makes a steal and takes it straight to the hole. That was just a tribute to her defensive ability and her athletic ability.”
Knotts and junior teammate Alexis Switzer each made two free throws during the closing seconds to clinch the win for the Rebels.
“It was a great game in the (district) final,” said Conner coach Aaron Stamm. “We just lost to a team that was equal to us. They made a few plays at the end and we didn’t, and that was it.”
Boone County’s leading scorer was junior guard Macey Ford with 14 points, followed by Switzer with 13 and Knotts with 12. Switzer was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
The double-figure scorers for Conner were senior guard Brooke Maines with 13 points and senior center Maddie Meyers with 11.
Boone County was 11-of-14 from the field in the second half and ended up shooting 34.1 percent (14 of 41) for the game. Conner shot 37 percent (19 of 51). At the free throw line, Boone County converted 22 of 29 attempts, while Conner was 6-of-10.
“They shot a lot of free throws and we didn’t, and I’m not real sure why,” Stamm said. “We did miss some free throws toward the end that kind of hurt us. You’ve just got to get it done at line in a game like this where points are going to be a premium.”
CONNER 15-4-14-16 – 49
BOONE CO. 10-7-15-21 – 53
CONNER (15-15): Meyers 4 3 11, Dages 1 0 2, Vest 2 0 6, Hendricks 4 0 9, Frye 1 0 2, Maines 6 0 13, Gambrel 1 3 6. Totals: 19 6 49
BOONE COUNTY (17-11): Ford 4 5 14, McGarr 0 6 6, Switzer 3 7 13, Moore 2 2 6, Knotts 4 2 12, Lankheit 1 0 2. Totals: 14 22 53.
3-point goals: C–Vest 2, Hendricks, Maines, Gambrel. BC–Knotts 2, Ford.
ALL-TOURNMENT TEAM: Boone County – Alexis Switzer (MVP), Macey Ford, Dallis Knotts. Conner – Brooke Maines, Hunter Hendricks. Cooper – Savannah Brinneman. Ryle – Maddy Jones. Heritage – Mariah Cain.