The Southwestern Lady Warriors rolled into Friday night's contest against district foe McCreary Central as a prohibitive favorite.
And for good reason. After all, Junior Molden and company had beaten the Lady Raiders in their first meeting by 31 points on McCreary Central's home court.
On Friday night however at The Wigwam, McCreary Central had other ideas.
The Lady Raiders hung tough with Southwestern for a half at least -- only trailing the Lady Warriors 39-37 at halftime, taking advantage of what head coach Junior Molden would call a lackluster defensive effort in the opening half of play.
However after the intermission, this game was all Southwestern.
The Lady Warriors began the third and fourth quarters on 10-0 runs, and held McCreary Central to only 13 second half points.
Meanwhile, Molden's club hit 11 three's on the night, placed four players in double figures, and outscored McCreary Central by a whopping, 39-13 margin in the second half of play.
As a result, it was Southwestern improving to 11-3 on the season with an impressive, 78-50 beatdown over the Lady Raiders.
"I kind of created part of that in the first half, because I started out with a different lineup, trying to get some different kids involved," pointed out Molden after the contest, in talking about his club's slow start out of the gate.
"My biggest regret last year going into the regionals, is I didn't have enough people ready to compete against Casey County," Molden added. "We kind of had a 'Deer in the headlight look' in that game, and that first round game against Casey County was basically a championship game. My mindset coming into this game tonight was to get some kids ready for this district and regional run. I tried it in the first half, and it created an atmosphere of we're in a ballgame. At halftime we talked, and we went the lineup in the second half that gets us going in games, and I really liked our second half. We got after it in the second half defensively, and we moved the ball really well. Even the shots that didn't go in, we're good looks."
Indeed, the Lady Warriors put the hammer down on McCreary Central in the second half of play, but that was not the case in the first half.
The Lady Raiders got 12 points in the opening half from Elizabeth Anderson, and her three-point hoop late in the first quarter gave McCreary Central a 20-18 lead after one period of play.
In the second frame, Southwestern looked to take control of things, thanks to the three-point ball.
Ayden Smiddy drained three of her four treys in the game in the second stanza, and after back to back three's from the younger Smiddy sister, Southwestern had a 29-20 lead midway through the frame.
However, McCreary Central would go on a run of its own.
The Lady Raiders finished the first half on a 12-2 spurt, getting to within two points of the Lady Warriors at halftime, only trailing Southwestern by a 39-37 score.
Then, the second half began, and Southwestern blew this one wide open.
A three-point hoop from Ayden Smiddy, five quick points from Marissa Loveless, and a steal and layup from Kaylee Young, and the Lady Warriors had started the second half on a 10-0 spurt, to take their biggest lead of the night at that juncture at 49-37.
And, there would be much more from the blue and orange.
Southwestern would outscore the Lady Raiders in a decisive third quarter by a 22-6 margin, turning up the defensive pressure against McCreary Central, taking a commanding, 61-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
For the game, Southwestern forced the Lady Raiders into 23 turnovers, and that fact, along with Southwestern's crisp ball movement that led to 11 treys on the night, were all things that were a good sign for coach Molden to see from his club.
"Even for about 3/4 of the first half, I really liked our ball movement and the way we moved the ball, but we decided to take the first half off defensively," pointed out the Southwestern head coach.
"We didn't rebound the ball well either in the first half," continued Molden. "They outrebounded us 14-8 in the first half, and that's unacceptable if we're going to make a run in the regional tournament. "I talked to our kids at halftime about the fact that when the shots aren't going in, you can do other things. You take Kinsley (Molden) tonight. She led us in assists with five, and she also led us in rebounds. The ball didn't go in the basket for her, but there are other things you can do on this team to help us. We have had a little problem at times of playing down to our opponents. McCreary (Central) has been playing good. They just got a win over Casey County, and not taking anything away from them, because they have been playing well. They'll be ready to play in the district tourney when we get down to Wayne County in about a month."
For the game, Young led Southwestern in scoring with a game-high 23 points, while Ayden Smiddy -- thanks to four -- three-point baskets -- tallied 14 points in the win. Loveless scored 13 points, and Alexa Smiddy chipped in with 12 points off the bench.
The Lady Warriors will return to action on Monday night, traveling to district foe Wayne County for a 48th District contest.
That game is slated to get underway at 6 p.m.
MC -- 20 17 6 7 -- 50
SW -- 18 21 22 17 -- 78
McCreary Central -- Elizabeth Anderson 20, Creekmore 13, Emily Anderson 8, Bell 3, Walters 2, Kiser 2, Trammell 2.
Southwestern -- Young 23, Ayden Smiddy 14, Loveless 13, Alexa Smiddy 12, Foreman 7, Daulton 3, Nelson 2, Molden 2, Acey 2.