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Marshall County Moving on After Grueling 58-51 Victory Over Bethlehem

(Photo courtesy of Les Nicholson)

(Photo courtesy of Les Nicholson)

In what’s seeming to become a pattern, another great game broke out on Friday afternoon in the 2021 KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 Tournament.

The Marshall County Lady Marshals (24-2) defeated the Bethlehem Banshees (22-4) 58-51 to advance to the semifinals of the state tournament. The two teams played with different styles, but the same amount of heart. Although neither team deserved to lose, only one could come out on top.

If the Lady Marshals and Banshees hadn’t gotten proper rest from their games yesterday, they were certainly regretting it. The first quarter was a battle. Both teams were having to grind for each and every basket.

With 3:30 left in the first period, the game was tied 8-8 and the contest was only seemingly getting more competitive. Bethlehem was running and gunning, while Marshall County was playing at a much more methodical pace. Nevertheless, both game plans were working.

As the second period progressed, Bethlehem’s rapid ball movement led to a three from Amelia Hodges to give her squad a 21-15 lead over Marshall County. The Lady Marshals wasted no time narrowing their deficit with a three of their own from Jada Driver.

(Photo courtesy of Les Nicholson)

For every step Marshall County was taking forward, Bethlehem would knock them two steps back. Nonetheless, they were still coming forward. With 2:44 left in the half, Layne Pea drained a bucket from deep to give the Lady Marshals their first lead of the second frame.

Bethlehem was able to regain the advantage and went into the half leading 28-26. Although the teams were playing extremely similar in most categories, one statistic was quite lopsided and the lead was reflecting it. Marshall County had only grabbed nine rebounds in the first half, compared to the Banshees’ 15.

Consequently, Bethlehem had three times more second-chance points than the Lady Marshals. Although Marshall County wasn’t rebounding, they were scoring in spades. Every player who had touched the floor for the Lady Marshals had scored and the team was shooting an impressive 44% from range. The two teams were in for a dogfight in the second half.

Marshall County star Cayson Conner certainly seemed to be aware of this fact heading into the third frame. Conner lit up the Banshees’ defense for the Lady Marshals’ first five points of the second half. Marshall County was already doing well, but things became even more interesting after Bethlehem star Ella Thompson gained her third foul and shuffled to the bench. There was blood in the water, and the Lady Marshals could smell it.

Unfortunately for Marshall County, Thompson wasn’t out for long and before they knew it Bethlehem had retaken a 40-37 lead with six minutes to go in the ball game. After an enormous three-pointer from Marshall County’s Halle Langhi, the two teams were tied and would proceed to go tit-for-tat for the final five minutes.

Luckily for the Lady Marshals, they had the most clutch player on the court. Conner would once again come through in Marshall County’s hour of need, scoring 12 of Marshall County’s final 16 points. When the dust had settled, Marshall County emerged victorious with a 58-51 win.

When asked what spurred the Lady Marshals to victory, Marshall County’s head coach had one simple answer, “Their character.”

Bethlehem had given their all and so had their players. Thompson led the way for the Banshees with 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Amelia Hodges didn’t drag too far behind with a respectable 12 points, two rebounds, and three assists.

As well as Bethlehem’s players had played, Marshall County’s players were just a little bit better. Star guard Cayson Conner led all scorers with 24 points and four rebounds. On top of this, Langhi added a monstrous 15 point, 12 rebound double-double.

Marshall County will move on to play the winner of Henderson County and Russell on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the state semifinals.

Article written by Grant Grubbs