Paul Laurence Dunbar is one win away from reaching the Sweet Sixteen.
Only Lafayette stands in the way.
Senior Alisha Jones stole the ball with a few seconds remaining and went in for the layup as time expired, lifting Dunbar to a come-from-behind 45-43 win over Henry Clay in the 11th Region Tournament semifinals Saturday at the Frankfort Convention Center.
“I just went for the basket,” said Jones, a reserve who averages two points. “I was nervous, but I did it.”
After missing four shots in the closing seconds, Jones’ steal off the rebound and buzzer-beating basket capped an 8-0 run over the final two minutes and gave the Lady Bulldogs (25-7) their 10th win in their last 12 games. It also ended a six-game winning streak for the Lady Blue Devils (17-12).
“A couple of weeks ago we would’ve probably quit being down like that,” said PLDHS coach Sarah Bridenbaugh, whose team split two regular-season matchups with HCHS. “They kept battling, they kept fighting, and a kid that a lot of you probably don’t even know her name comes up with a big steal and a big finish for a layup.”
Up next for PLDHS is a rematch with LHS (26-3) — a 63-54 winner over Franklin County in the first game Saturday — in the finals today at 4 p.m. The two teams have already played three times this season with LHS winning the last two by an average of 19 points, including a 66-46 win in last week’s 43rd District Tournament finals.
“Either one of us will represent the 11th Region well, but of course, we love to come up against Lafayette,” said Bridenbaugh, whose team won the first meeting by three. “My girls are excited, very excited.
“I think this kind of win is really what we need leading into tomorrow. It gives us some energy and some focus.”
After being named 11th Region Player of the Year prior to the game, 6-foot-2 senior Brooke Todd had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for the Lady Bulldogs. Senior ShaKeema Jackson also scored 12 points, sophomore Ezzy Ighodaro had 10 points and junior Nicole Armstrong grabbed 10 rebounds.
“Everybody did their part and that’s what makes me so happy,” Bridenbaugh said.
The Lady Bulldogs trailed 43-37 with two minutes to go before going on an 8-0 run to end the game.
Jackson opened with a 3 from the corner. After an over-and-back call, Todd scored down low to make it 43-42 with 45 seconds left. Todd then blocked sophomore T’Laya Lyvers on the other end and Ighodaro made the second of two free throws to tie the game with 32.4 seconds to go.
Then after a timeout, the Lady Blue Devils turned the ball over again. Jackson (twice), Armstrong and Todd each missed shots around the basket in the final seconds before Jones’ game-winner.
“I thought we were going to overtime, but credit to them, they didn’t quit,” Bridenbaugh said. “There was still a chance to steal the ball and put the ball in the hole and that’s exactly what she did.”
Lyvers and junior Kerrigan Davis each had 12 points to lead the Lady Blue Devils.
HENRY CLAY (43) — Jazmine Richmond 2, Kennedy Coney 3, T’Laya Lyvers 12, Kamari Boyd 8, Nakyira Joyce 3, Kerrigan Davis 12, Hannah Young 3.
DUNBAR (45) — Ezzy Ighodaro 10, Alisha Jones 5, ShaKeema Jackson 12, Sydney Grant 3, Brooke Todd 12, Nicole Armstrong 3.