LEXINGTON - The Southwestern High School girls basketball team were knocked off by the top-rated Anderson County Lady Bearcats by a score of 78-67 in the opening round of the 2021 Mingua Beef Jerky Girls Sweet Sixteen Basketball Tournament on Wednesday night.
Although Anderson County built their largest lead of the game at 65-48 with 4:47 left in the game, the Lady Warriors went on a 10-2 run sparked by a Kaylee Young layup and free throw, a Alexa Smiddy layup, a Kylie Foreman free throw and two made free throws by Marissa Loveless. The run got the Lady Warriors within nine points at 69-60 with 1:40 left in the contest.
An Acey three-pointer and two inside baskets by Alexa Smiddy cut the Anderson County lead to seven points at 74-67 with 59 seconds left in the game. However, the Lady Warriors could not nail down a couple of long range three-pointers, while the Lady Bearcats hit four free throws down the stretch to hold on to a 11-point winning margin.
"I felt like we were going to win the game in the fourth quarter after Kaylee Young hit that three," Southwestern High School girls basketball coach Junior Molden stated. "We got down late by six points to Mercer County in the region finals. My kids were fighting and giving it their all."
"We got down by 14 points early and that put us in a hole," Molden stated. "My kids fought. That second half proved everything I needed to see out of my kids. We had no regrets, and we left it all on the floor."
"I don't know how this state tournament is going to turn out, but I don't know how Anderson County lost a game this season - they are that good of a team," Molden stated. "They will make a big run throughout the rest of this tournament."
A Loveless layup and an Acey free throw had Southwestern leading 16-14 with 7:10 left in the second quarter, but Anderson County went on a 17-3 run to take a 33-19 lead with 1:28 left in the half after Alexa Smiddy had to go to the bench with three personal fouls early in the second quarter. Lady Bearcats Sophie Smith hit a jumper at the buzzer to give Anderson County a 37-24 halftime lead.
Third quarter scores by Ayden Smiddy, Marissa Loveless, Kaylee Young, and Alexa Smiddy cut the Anderson County lead down to 48-41 with 2:49 left in the period. However, Anderson County went on a 10-0 run to close out the third quarter leading 58-41.
Southwestern led for most of the first quarter and were up 11-8 with 50 seconds left in the period. Payton Acey had a tip-in with six seconds left in the opening stanza to put Southwestern up 13-11. Anderson County's Tiffani Riley hit a three at the buzzer to put the Lady Bearcats up 14-13 at the end of the opening period.
Coach Molden talked about his two seniors Alexa Smiddy and Marissa Loveless and the roles they played in this year's success
"Alexa Smiddy had a terrific senior year," Molden said. "She has took this program, as a point guard, to two state tournaments. She had to play through a lot of pain tonight by getting three fouls in the first half and she had to figure out how to play through that. Marissa Loveless is our leading rebounder. She is our backbone on the court and the leader in the locker room."
Despite sitting out a large portion of the game with foul trouble Alexa Smiddy came out strong in the Lady Warriors' fourth quarter surge. Smiddy ended the night with a double-double 12 points and 10 assists. Her younger sister Ayden Smiddy also had 12 points, as the top two Lady Warriors scorers in the game.
"I knew this might be my last game at Southwestern, so I wanted to leave it all on the floor with no regret," an emotional Alexa Smiddy said.
Southwestern was out rebounded by the larger Lady Bearcats 38 to 24. Also, Anderson County went 27-of-34 from the free throw line while Southwestern struggled at 7-of-16.
Last season, Southwestern was eliminated by Casey County in the first round of the 12th Region Tournament, while Anderson County won the 8th Region Tournament, defeated Franklin County in the opening round of the state tournament, and was scheduled to play Casey County in the state quarterfinals before the event was cancelled due to COVID.
In 2019, Southwestern won the 12th Region Tournament and advanced all the way to the state finals before falling to Ryle. That same year, Anderson County lost to Simon Kenton in the the 8th Region Tournament semifinals.
The last time these two programs met was on Dec. 21, 2013, and Anderson County defeated Southwestern 69-44 in the Lexington Catholic Holiday Tournament.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.
SW 13 10 18 26 - 67
AC 14 23 21 20 - 78
SOUTHWESTERN - Alexa Smiddy 12, Ayden Smiddy 12, Loveless 11, Molden 9, Young 9, Noritis 3.
ANDERSON COUNTY - Jenkins 24, Smith 15, Riley 16, R. Satterly 14, J. Satterly 3, Chesser 4, Serafini 2