Sweet 16: Pikeville Falls at Rupp

From left to right: Pikeville’s Leslie Stewart, Kelsi Jo Tackett, Alivia Gearheart, Grace Bartley and Kirsten Cole-Williamson sit on the bench at the end of a 65-47 loss to Barren County during the opeing round of the KHSAA Kentucky Sweet 16.

LEXINGTON — Just two minutes into the KHSAA Sweet 16, Pikeville’s Kirsten Cole-Williamson picked up her second foul and headed to the bench.

At that point, Pikeville trailed 3-2. Barren County rolled off a 10-0 run to jump out to a 13-2 lead. 

The Trojanettes hot start helped them pick up a 65-47 win over Pikeville in the Sweet 16.

Pikeville finished the season with a 27-8 record. The Lady Panthers won the 59th District championship and their first 15th Region championship since 1980.

“Obviously, we didn’t get the good start that we wanted,” Pikeville coach Kristy Orem said. “I didn’t know how they’d handle the jitters. I thought in the second half we settled down and played our style and did what we needed to do. It’s just the game of basketball. Some nights you’re going to make shots and they’re just not going to fall in. Thankfully, we got to see some fall in the second half. The first half was rough as far as shooting percentage and rebounding, I couldn’t believe that this was one of the first times we’ve been out rebounded all year.”

Cole-Williamson came back in the first quarter and knocked down two free throws with 3:42 left to stop the 10-0 run. That cut the lead to 13-4.

Pikeville trailed 17-6 at the end of the first quarter.

“We’ve been really confident the last two weeks and I thought this was the first time you could see that you could see some panic,” Orem said. “I think you could see that in our offense not being what it should’ve been. Credit to them. Coming out shooting 50 percent, you’re shooting the ball really well because I know my girls play really good defense.”

Pikeville seventh-grader Trinity Rowe opened the second quarter with a jumper to cut the lead to 17-8. 

That sparked another 10-0 run by Barren County. The Trojanettes held a 27-8 lead after Jalynn Bush scored with 3:10 left in the first half. 

Cole-Williamson scored with two seconds left in the half to cut the lead to 32-15 heading into the halftime break.

Pikeville trailed 51-32 entering the fourth quarter.

“We started playing defense a little better,” Orem said. “We tightened up and said, ‘Let’s get out there and get after them.’ I thought that we’d play off of them early and that wasn’t the best idea. We just said, “Let’s play our defense and let’s get after them.’ I really thought that helped us get some points in transition and settle in on offense.” 

Kelsey Jo Tackett opened the fourth with a three for Pikeville to cut the lead to 51-36. Rowe followed with a basket at the 5:27 mark to cut the lead to 51-38.

Tackett added another three with 3:09 left to cut the lead to 55-41. 

Pikeville couldn’t really get any closer as Barren County held on for the 65-47 win.

Tackett led the way for Pikeville with a team-high 14 points. She hit four of her 10 three-point attempts. Cole-Williamson followed with 13 points and four rebounds. Rowe just missed double figure scoring with nine points. Alvia Gearheart finished the night with eight points. Leslie Stewart finished two points and seven rebounds. Grace Bartley chipped in with one point.

“I just think that all of the hard work that we’ve put in has been worth it and it’s been such a great experience with all of the seniors,” Cole-Williamson said. “It’s just been awesome.” 

Pikeville got out rebounded by Barren County 45-27.

“It was frustrating (rebounding the ball),” Orem said. “We knew that there would be some long rebounds because they shoot a lot of threes. Out of our zone, we didn’t do a good job of rebounding out of it. A lot of it on the offensive end, we typically get a lot of offensive rebounds. Kirsten (Cole-Williamson) is a killer at going and getting offensive rebounds. It was like she would be there and the ball would just go over her head. She was in position. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Pikeville will lose two seniors off of this year’s team. Bartley and Stewart are both seniors.

“It was huge (to let our seniors end their careers at Rupp Arena),” Orem said. “My seniors Grace Bartley and Leslie Stewart were our main stays all year. As far as mental toughness and being leaders on the court and off the court. They’re special. When I came here, we only had two seniors at the time and those two were sophomores and we talked about building a program. I think that they were big in that. Our saying here is that we want to build a legacy. And I can tell you that those two seniors left a legacy.”

The Lady Panthers will return a lot of talent next season.

“These girls will tell you, I’ll be ready to get back in the gym with them ASAP,” Orem said. “I’ll let them have a little break just because I love them. I think the biggest thing for them to learn since I’ve been here is just how hard it is get here. You have to work. I’m trying to help raise women and teach them that you’re going to have to work hard for everything you get. Nobody is going to give us anything. Just like coming to Rupp Arena, it took a long time to get here. I want to see these girls be successful women and I want them to understand that they have to work hard to be that.”

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