Paul Laurence Dunbar’s senior leaders came up big down the stretch Wednesday night.
Seniors ShaKeema Jackson and Brooke Todd paved the way late in the game, as PLDHS scored the final 12 points to pull away and beat Madison Central 45-35 in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Jackson scored the last six points of the game and the 6-foot-2 Todd had four blocks in the closing minutes to help the Lady Bulldogs (24-7) knock off the defending regional champions in the Lady Indians (15-15).
Jackson finished with 21 points — including 15 in the second half — and Todd had 15 rebounds and six blocks.
“I don’t think they were ready to be done,” said Dunbar coach Sarah Bridenbaugh, whose team has won nine of its last 12 games. “They’ve carried us all year, so down the stretch we look for them to step up and make big plays and that’s exactly what happened.”
Dunbar will now play Henry Clay (17-11) — which beat Western Hills 52-49 in overtime in the late game Wednesday night — in the semifinals Saturday at 3:15 p.m. The teams split during the regular season with Dunbar winning the first game 48-41 and Henry Clay winning the second game 45-36.
“We knew what we had to do in order to win and we pulled together as a team to make it happen,” Jackson said.
Sophomore Ezzy Ighodaro had 10 points and six rebounds, while junior Nicole Armstrong added 11 rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs, who won despite blowing a 9-0 lead to open the game and shooting an abysmal 22.4 percent.
“We haven’t shot the ball well the last few games,” Bridenbaugh said, “so we’re hoping to come out of that slump here the next few days.”
Senior Bailey O’Bryan had 10 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Lady Indians, who missed their first 12 shots and finished at just 28 percent. Six-foot-one senior Shadae Bosley added nine points and 12 rebounds.
The Lady Bulldogs trailed 34-31 with less than five minutes to go before going on a 14-1 run to end the game with Ighodaro and Jackson combining for the final 12 points.
A nice baseline drive and layup by Ighodaro made it 36-35 and gave Dunbar the lead for good with 3:30 remaining. She followed with another bucket and a free throw to push the lead to 39-35 with 1:39 left.
From there it was Jackson, who scored three buckets in the final minute. She weaved through a couple of defenders to score, and then got a layup off a steal before dribbling through the press for another easy basket.
“This team the last couple of weeks, we get down, we struggle a little bit,” Bridenbaugh said. “But that last two minutes they really dug their heels in defensively. We had two or three steals and two or three big blocked shots by Brooke that really sealed that win.
“It didn’t feel like a 10-point win at all. ... They decided that, ‘Hey, we’re not ready to go home.’”
DUNBAR (45) — Ezzy Ighodaro 10, ShaKeema Jackson 21, Kristina Rosen 3, Sydney Grant 3, Brooke Todd 5, Nicole Armstrong 3.
MADISON CENTRAL (35) — Bailey O’Bryan 10, Lindsey Johns 8, Kasi Schneid 1, Hailey Christian 5, Shadae Bosley 9, Raevin Cain 2.