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By David Sharp
Knox County overcame an 8-2 Cairo run starting off their February 23, 2021 Class 2, District 6 girls game at Cairo with a 17-5 second quarter run. The Lady Eagles (11-10) were outscored 37-31 in the second half, but the first two quarters proved decisive in a 61-55 win.
Cairo (9-15) mounted a fierce comeback in the fourth quarter. The Lady Eagles led 30-18 at the half. Knox County was able to stretch their lead to 37-24 when Kylee Woods finished a Daniela Dooley feed at the 4:29 mark of the third quarter.
Jersey Bailey drained a three ball, pulling Cairo back within a 33-24 deficit earlier in the period. Cairo dropped 11 home run balls on Knox County compared to five for Knox County.
The Lady Eagles used their height advantage for a 14-6 margin in made field goals. Cairo fought back from the three point line in a gut wrenching battle for district survival. There are artistic games, and there are competitive contests. This game was a very competitive affair.
Cairo threw the ball away numerous times. Knox County turned the ball over too. The Lady Bearcats turned up their defensive intensity late in the third quarter. Shaylee Chrisman fired in a three ball for a 39-29 KC lead with 3:15 to play in the period.
Knox County began contesting more Cairo perimeter scoring attempts. Cairo responded by extending their half-court defense when Knox County got the ball down the court.
Cairo began rebounding better. Knox County took a 41-31 lead to the final eight minutes. Knox County missed free throws helped keep the Lady Bearcats within hailing distance. Cairo gained momentum early in the fourth quarter.
At the same time, the Lady Bearcats found themselves in foul trouble. Cairo subbed at nearly every opportunity so they could continue trying to take advantage of cold KCHS free throw shooting.
Allison Dunworthy pulled Cairo back within a 43-37 deficit with a home run ball at the 5:39 mark. Alyssa Peavler hit a free throw. Riley Strange sank a free throw for a 45-38 lead with 4:53 showing on the clock.
Jersey Bailey nailed a contested three for a 45-41 score. Cairo fans got back into the game. The duel became more intense. Knox County turned the ball over. Cairo missed a good shot.
Brianna Miller hit two free throws. Knox County had at least three rebounds of missed free throws during the second half. Cairo got even hotter from the perimeter. Allison Dunwoody hit a three. Alyssa Peavler countered with two free throws.
Knox County held their five point edge at 49-44 with 3:56 to play in the game. Cairo banked in a three pointer around the two minute mark. Daniela Dooley and Shaylee Chrisman traded two free throw efforts.
Knox County led 54-49 with 2:07 to play in the game. Shaylee Chrisman hit two more Bearcat free throws. Cairo pulled within a 54-51 deficit with 1:46 remaining in the contest.
The Lady Eagles made more plays in the final two minutes to win. Alyssa Peavler hit two clutch free throws with 1:18 to go for a 56-51 KC lead. Cairo set off a rather wild set of events with a field goal at the 44 second mark.
Knox County got a five second call against them on the inbound. Alyssa Peavler stole the ball back. Kylee Woods hit a free throw for a 57-53 lead. Cairo missed two free throws with 27 seconds to play trailing 57-53.
The Lady Bearcats started losing players. Jersey Bailey fouled out with a team leading 15 points. Riley Strange put Knox County ahead 59-53 with 18.4 seconds to play in the game.
Gracie Brumley kept Bearcat hopes alive with a pair of free throws. The Bearcats wound up with four players fouling out of the game. Riley Strange and Kylee Woods rebounded missed free throws in the closing moments
Alyssa Peavler sank a free throw, closing the book on a very captivating contest. Knox County did enough to win the 61-55 decision.
Riley Strange led all scorers with 23 points. Alyssa Peavler scored 14 points. Brianna Miller fired in nine points. Daniela Dooley scored seven points. Kylee Woods scored five and Kinsley Johnson added three points.
Gracie Brumley was in double figures with 14 Cairo points. Knox County won despite Cairo hitting 12-15 free throws and the Lady Eagles sinking only 17 of 33 tries.
“I think we just needed to get the tempo again,” Cairo Coach Brian Winkler said. “The difference is being able to set up defense off a made basket. I didn’t think they handled the basketball very well but give them credit. They handled it just well enough to give us a problem inside.”
“When we hit shots we were able to set up defense. The second quarter, we just weren’t able to hit anything,” Brian Winkler said. “We went to a zone. It took us awhile to get acclimated to it.”
“The shots just didn’t fall. I tip my hat to them,” Coach Winkler said. “I thought they did a great job. (Riley) Strange is a load inside. (Brianna) Miller hit three big threes in the first half.”
“Give them credit. They played hard,” Winkler said. “Our girls played hard too. That’s all I could ever ask for.”
“I got spooked at the end,” Knox County coach James Dent said. “We came down and weren’t really controlling out possessions. We were getting free throws and not making them. They started chipping away.”
“Even though we had a slight advantage, just running in and hoping for a foul is really not very good strategy,” Coach Dent said. “We weathered the storm. We made the right plays when we needed to. We hurt ourselves a lot. We made some silly unforced errors.”
“I hadn’t seen them use that kind of pressure, or shoot that well either,” James Dent said. “We have been shooting very well from the free throw line. When we were up 16 points on the floor. If we were hitting free throws like we normally do we would have been in a more comfortable position.”
“The girls recovered. They got themselves back in the game early,” Coach Dent said. “They have done that as of late. They were down by ten at Harrisburg, got back in the game. You never know what is going to happen.”
The Lady Eagles wound up with wins over eventual district champions North Shelby and Harrisburg. Knox County beat Palmyra twice. The Lady Panthers played Clark County for a district title.
“I’m very proud of the way they handled themselves tonight,” James Dent said. “They have been playing with a lot more aggression which is something I have wanted for awhile.”
“I told them now you have a standard to live up to.”