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Girls pound Walton-Verona in semifinals

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By John Herndon

SHELBYVILLE - If anything, Anderson County might have set its clock ahead by more than an hour Saturday night.

That's how ready the Lady Bearcats were for the semi-final round of the Eighth Region Tournament Sunday afternoon.

After two postponements because of the weekend's snow, Anderson quickly jumped on Walton-Verona, then delivered the knockout punch in the third quarter for a 76-48 romp at Shelby County High School.

"We had to come out and play," said Anderson junior Lindsay Fultz, who scored 10 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. "The coaches told us we needed to get off to a good start."

It took just 54 seconds Anderson to establish dominance over its northern Kentucky foe, also nicknamed the Bearcats.

After Walton-Verona's Lauren Hargett scored the game's first basket, the Lady Bearcats scored 6 points in 14 seconds. Caitlyn Royalty whipped the Walton-Verona press for a layup, then Courtney Milam put back a missed free throw and Royalty drove for a layup after a steal.

"We felt our press could cause them some real problems and we wanted to create some problems early," Anderson coach Tony Kays said. "I thought the girls came out and played hard from the outset."

Anderson improved to 24-8 while Walton-Verona finished at 15-14.

While Anderson ran off 12 straight points early, it was only after Hargett drilled a 3-point shot, then converted an old-fashioned three-point play before Anderson kicked it into high gear. Leading just 20-18, Tiffany Davenport got things started with a pair of flips in the lane. Over the next 4 minutes, Anderson outscored Walton-Verona 16-5 and eventually built a 43-27 halftime lead.

Anderson was never threatened again, outscoring Walton-Verona 24-11 in the third quarter.

Davenport, who had been sick most of the week and came off the bench Sunday, led Anderson with 17 points, including a trio of 3-point bombs in the second half. "I started feeling good again Saturday," she said.

Milam added 15 points while Christy Gemmell and Royalty tallied 11 each.

"I think Anderson came out as the aggressor," said Walton-Verona coach Ashley Rosen. "We had seen them on film and knew about their press but we did not take care of the ball."

But the northern Bearcats could do little about it, turning the ball over 25 times. "I don't know how many steals Christy Gemmell had but she did a great job of anticipating and making steals," Kays said. "She also did a great job of penetrating and breaking down their defense."

Anderson's performance withstood a 35-point barrage from Hargett in her final high school game. Hargett ended her career with over 1700 points. A Thomas More College signee, Hargett received a prolonged ovation from the vast majority of the estimated 750 fans in attendance when she left the floor for the last time with two minutes to go.

Kays did not need to remind his team that Walton-Verona had rallied from a 13-point third quarter deficit to upset Oldham County in the tournament's first round.

It was Walton-Verona's first regional tournament win since 1992 when the northern Bearcats were in the Ninth Region. "At halftime, we talked about how we had let teams off the hook this year," Kays said. "We wanted to finish them off."

Rosen added, "Tony has a nice bench and they were able to play a lot of kids."

That depth finally began to take its toll on Walton-Verona, a school with only 320 students.

With less than a minute to go in the third quarter, Anderson had nearly doubled the score (67-34) and cruised the rest of the way.

"It was kind of different getting up and getting going," Milam said of the game-time uncertainty. "We came in at 12 o'clock today for a shoot around but it was different."

Milam, who lives in a rural area of the county, said she missed a team practice Saturday. "I was snowed in," she smiled.

"That was what made it hard," Kays said of the game being postponed from Friday to Saturday, then Sunday. "You really don't know how to prepare. You don't know how hard to work the kids, and you are just hoping you do it right. The good thing is that everybody is in the same boat.

"The upperclassmen did a great job in helping everyone get ready. I don't think we had anyone stand out, but a lot of people played and had good games for us."