South Laurel advances with a hard-fought win over Lady Cats

Published 4:21 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2024

By John Henson

Contributing Sports Writer

South Laurel moved into the semifinals of the 13th Region Tournament but it was far from easy as the young Lady Cardinals built a big lead early and then spent the rest of the night fighting off Bell County comebacks before winning 57-55.

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Maci Messer scored 17 points to lead the 20-13 Lady Cardinals. Jamie Beunaventura and Shelbie Mills added 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Senior forward Gracie Jo Wilder closed her Bell County career with a 34-point night. Sophomore center Kairi Lamb added 11 points for the 18-14 Lady Cats.

Messer reeled off six straight points on a 3-pointer followed by a three-point play off a turnover as the Lady Cards grabbed the 13-point lead. Four baskets by Wilder and one from Lauren McGeorge helped the Lady Cats scratch their way back into the game by cutting the deficit to 24-17 after one quarter.

Bell scored the first eight points of the second quarter on two baskets by Wilder and one each from Lamb and McGeorge to take its first lead. South was limited to only five points in the period as Bell took a 31-29 lead into the break.

The Lady Cats shot 63 percent (12 of 19) in the first half compared to 38 percent (12 of 32) for South.

Both teams struggled offensively in the third quarter, combining for 15 points as South took a 38-37 lead.

Skeeter Mabe and Mills pushed the lead to five before Wilder reeled off three straight baskets to put Bell up by one. Mabe and Buenaventura answered for South and Bell spent the rest of the night playing catch up. A basket by Messer increased South Laurel’s lead to five, but Bell County went on a 6-2 run to cut its deficit to one with 44 seconds left in regulation.

Buenaventura followed with two free throws, giving the Lady Cardinals a 56-53 cushion. Lamb scored inside with 3.9 seconds left after Wilder missed a 3 while a free throw by Buenaventura with 1.9 remaining sealed the win for South Laurel.  The Lady Cats were unable to get off a shot after she missed the second free throw.