A bad start didn’t stop Franklin County’s girls basketball team.
Neither did having its leading scorer foul out with over five minutes left in the game.
Saturday’s first 11th Region Tournament semifinal was a two-point game with 1:50 remaining, but Lafayette went 9 for 12 from the free throw line in the final 1:07 and took a 63-54 victory over FCHS at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Lafayette (26-3) will play Dunbar today at 4 p.m. for the regional championship. Dunbar defeated Henry Clay 45-43 in Saturday’s second semifinal.
“We’re just knocking on the door still,” FCHS coach Joey Thacker said. “That’s what I told our kids in the locker room. We’ve got to find a way to beat it down.”
Saturday’s game was a rematch of last year’s semifinals, when Lafayette defeated the Lady Flyers 66-55 before losing the regional championship to Madison Central.
The Generals were hot at the start of the game, leading 17-3 with 2:34 left in the first quarter and 21-9 when the period ended.
The second quarter was all Franklin County as the Lady Flyers opened with a 7-0 run. FCHS held Lafayette to just four points in the quarter and led 27-25 at halftime.
Franklin County shot 56.3 percent in the first half while holding Lafayette to 36 percent.
“Our kids are resilient,” Thacker said. “We came back from being down twice, really, once by double digits and once by almost double digits.”
And FCHS did it with defense.
“Their press is what happened the second quarter,” Lafayette coach Allison Denton said. “Our back people weren’t moving. We finally got our back people moving and were able to break it, but they were impressive the whole game.”
The Generals opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run, good for a 35-27 lead, and they were ahead 42-34 going into the fourth quarter.
Fouls became a problem for FCHS in the final period. Malaka Frank, who led the Lady Flyers with 18 points, picked up her third foul with 6:31 remaining, her fourth just over a minute later, and she fouled out on a charging call with 5:14 left.
Frank scored on the play, and a double foul was called after a conference among the referees.
In the second half, FCHS was whistled for 20 fouls and Lafayette for six.
After falling behind by 10 early in the fourth quarter, Franklin County eventually got back within two points after a 3-pointer by Dasia Kilbourne that made the score 52-50 with 2:10 remaining.
The two teams traded baskets and the score was 54-52 with 1:50 left. The Lady Flyers lost an opportunity to make up some ground when an apparent over-and-back call wasn’t made in the final minute.
“We told the girls to take it inside in transition,” Thacker said. “You’ve got to make something happen. It’s not always called on both ends of the floor like it’s meant to be. The over-and-back call I thought was huge because it was a two or three-point game at the time.”
The last 11 points of the game were scored from the free throw line.
Lafayette’s Dee Givens led all players with 26 points and 11 rebounds. She also had three assists and three steals.
“We let Givens get off to a tremendous start,” Thacker said. “She made every big shot that needed to be made. We held our own on the boards until late and missed a couple free throw blockouts.
“I’m just real proud of them. I thought we can control what we can control; the rest of it is what it is.”
“Dee had a look in her eyes,” Denton said. “I knew the ball would be in her hands and she’d be the one shooting it.”
FCHS shot 50 percent (19 for 38) for the game and Lafayette hit 35.6 percent (16 for 45). The Generals outrebounded Franklin County 34-27.
Princess Stewart had 11 rebounds and four assists for FCHS. Frank went 7 for 8 from the field and 4 for 4 from the foul line in scoring her 18 points.
Also in double figures for the Lady Flyers were Nannilena White with 15 points and Kilbourne with 11.
White is the only senior for FCHS.
“Nannilena’s been here since I think the sixth grade,” Thacker said. “She’s been a tremendous leader for us, made play after play.
“I don’t fault our kids’ effort. We did a very good job against a very tough schedule; hats off to Lafayette. They had more points than us at the end of the day.
“I just felt like our slow start, turning the ball over so much early, and them living at the free throw line the second half was the difference in the game.”
LAFAYETTE (63) — Dee Givens 26, Ken’yale Demus 6, Kiara Pankins 18, Sarah Cooley 6, Ashanti Thomas 7.
FRANKLIN CO. (54) — Nannilena White 15, Malaka Frank 18, Dasia Kilbourne 11, Princess Stewart 5, Anna Arrastia 3, Rebecca Cook 2.