When the season ended, when Western Hills’ girls basketball team saw a late lead slip away and Henry Clay win in overtime, there wasn’t much to say about the game.
The talk was about the journey, how a team that hadn’t been to the regional tournament since 2009 was 36 seconds from advancing to the semifinals.
“It’s like I told the girls, there’s no other locker room I’d want to be in,” WHHS coach Buddy Ritchie said after his team lost to Henry Clay 52-49 in overtime Wednesday in the 11th Region Tournament at the Frankfort Convention Center.
“I’m as proud as I can be of them. I don’t have one negative thing to say. That’s the way the game goes.”
Henry Clay will play Dunbar in Saturday’s second semifinal at 3:15 p.m. Dunbar defeated Madison Central 45-35 in Wednesday’s first game.
Franklin County will play Lafayette in the first game Saturday at 1:30.
The Lady Wolverines (16-13) played on even terms with 42nd District champion Henry Clay the entire game.
They were up 38-33 with 36 seconds left in regulation, but a 3-pointer by T’Laya Lyvers at the buzzer tied the game and sent it to overtime.
The Lady Devils (17-11) appeared to have the upper hand late in the extra period, but WHHS battled back and had a chance to tie and force a second overtime.
“I thought at the end we struggled stopping their penetration a little bit,” Ritchie said. “We executed our game plan. We wanted to make them shoot from the outside as much as possible.
“We executed a play to get a 3-point shot off at the end. It’s hard; it really is. These kids come to the gym and work hard every day. I thought they played great, and I hope they get a little recognition in the 11th Region.”
WHHS led 15-12 after the first quarter. At halftime the game was tied at 19, and Henry Clay was ahead 27-24 at the end of the third quarter.
The teams were tied at 33 with 2:45 left to play, but WHHS scored five straight for a 38-33 lead with 36 seconds left.
During that run, LaKenzie Ritchie hit two free throws and Alexis True went 3 for 4 from the line.
Those were the last points Western Hills scored in regulation. Kennedy Coney connected on a layup for Henry Clay with 28 seconds left, and WHHS turned the ball over on a walking call and missed two free throws in the final 21 seconds, setting up Lyvers’ game-tying shot.
“I’ll tell you what, when she’s got the ball in her hands I’m very comfortable,” Henry Clay coach Eric Sanford said of Lyvers. “She’s made plays for us all year long.
“She struggled in the first half, but she stuck with it. She knew we needed a 3, and she pulled up and shot it with confidence.”
Henry Clay had trouble with its offense for much of the game, hitting 31 percent in the first half and 37 percent in the second.
“We struggled in the first half,” Sanford said. “They did a great job of throwing us off with that zone, and we had some trouble with the width and length of the floor.
“Hats off to a well-coached Western Hills team. The second half we did a better job of attacking the zone, and in overtime we did a much better job of attacking it.”
Henry Clay went 5 for 6 from the field in overtime, but that didn’t seal the win.
The Lady Devils’ Kamari Boyd went 4 for 4 from the foul line, the last two with 13 seconds left, to give Henry Clay a 52-47 lead in overtime.
True scored on a layup with six seconds left to make the score 52-49, and Henry Clay turned the ball over on a five-second inbounds call.
Western Hills had two 3-point shots in the final six seconds. The second one was blocked as the final horn sounded.
Ritchie finished with a game-high 20 points, and led WHHS in rebounding with five boards.
Taylor Slade, who hit four 3-pointers, scored 14 points for the Lady Wolverines.
Lyvers led Henry Clay with 17 points and eight rebounds, and Coney finished with 14 points.
“I thought, especially in the second half, we did a better job of handling the ball against their pressure,” coach Ritchie said. “Our guards have really grown up, and we did a good job on the boards.”
Henry Clay held a 27-25 advantage on the boards.
WHHS graduates two seniors off this year’s team — Aja Leachman and Becca Harrod, who hasn’t played since December because of a knee injury.
“We have a lot to build on,” Ritchie said.
“This was one of those games where you play hard and come up one basket short.”
WESTERN HILLS (49) — Jenna Harrod 2, Alexis True 7, Taylor Vance 2, LaKenzie Ritchie 20, Taylor Slade 14, Kimber Sutton 1, Aja Leachman 3.
HENRY CLAY (52) — Kennedy Coney 14, T’Laya Lyvers 17, Kamari Boyd 8, Nakyira Joyce 2, Kerrigan Davis 5, Areanna Porter 5, Hannah Young 1.
To see more photos from the game, click here.