FRANKFORT — At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, the Scott County girls’ basketball team can watch the film of Saturday night’s Penn Station/Centria Shootout main event and count enough missed free throws and layups to lament that it might have beaten Ryle by 10 or 15 points.
Instead, University of Oregon-bound senior Maddie Scherr and the defending KHSAA champion Lady Raiders never trailed and walked out of Franklin County High School with a 71-64 win.
Assuming the goal at the Christmas and New Year break is to continue building confidence and chemistry against top-flight opponents, the Lady Cards (8-5) emerged with plenty of positives to balance those feelings of what might have been.
“I told them I’m really proud. I hope we learn from this,” SC coach Steve Helton said. “Kids who aren’t usually in a position to make plays were counted on to make plays, and they will next time. I believe with all my heart they’ll learn from that.”
Scherr fought off foul trouble to finish with 30 points, 15 rebounds and four assists, and her 15-for-16 flourish from the free-throw line was the centerpiece of the most glaring statistical comparison.
Ryle (6-5) attempted 33 free throws and missed only four. Scott County struggled mightily and wound up 10-for-26.
“You’re not going to beat good teams leaving 16 points on the free throw line,” Helton said. “It came down to free throws, and second-chance opportunities in the first half, especially. We did show some guts. We did show that we’ve got some toughness to us. We’ve got to execute a little bit better.”
Scott County’s own future Division I senior tandem stepped up to the challenge of the season’s toughest opponent to date. Morgan DeFoor and Malea Williams each finished with 21 points.
DeFoor nailed five 3-pointers, including a pair of bombs from beyond 25 feet that pulled SC even at 47 to close the third quarter. Williams bounced back big-time from a silent first quarter and supplemented her scoring with 17 rebounds, six steals, four blocked shots and three assists, all team-high totals.
Scherr and Brie Crittendon (14 points) scored consecutively to break the deadlock at the start of the fourth quarter.
That swing allowed Ryle to dictate a slower tempo down the stretch, especially after Scherr acquired her fourth foul with 5:54 remaining.
“We gave ourselves a chance. It came down to a few plays there where Maddie stepped up,” Helton said. “That’s why she’s going to Oregon. She’s an incredible player who made everybody else better.”
DeFoor’s steal and a resulting Williams layup reduced the deficit to two, but Jaiden Douthit replied with two free throws for Ryle, which was awarded 28 trips to the line compared with SC’s nine in the second half.
Douthit and Sarah Baker each knocked down two more to punctuate a sequence in which Tyra Young and Kenady Tompkins (eight points, five rebounds) fouled out for the Lady Cards.
“If you make a few free throws, it puts a little more pressure on them later on to make a few more shots. Maybe they don’t pull it out and go to that stall. A lot of what-ifs,” Helton said. “Loose balls, deflections, where one step away we’re in transition, but instead they’d get it back, we were out of position, and they’d finish.”
Still, SC had a last gasp. Kaylie Wise buried a right corner three to make it 61-55 with 1:09 to go.
An empty possession for Ryle led to a Williams basket, then to a DeFoor tie-up with the possession arrow pointing SC’s way.
The next prayer grazed off the rim, however, and Ryle — which has won five of its past six games since a brief stumble when Scherr was out with an injury — closed the door with more makes from the charity stripe.
“I definitely don’t want to lose, but I’ll take a Jan. 4 battle like that if we can learn from it and get better,” Helton said. “We had a chance to learn against this caliber team in this type of event. A lot of these kids, they’ve never been the showcase game.
“We have three very experienced players with big-time credentials and aspirations, and then we need to find four, hopefully six more kids around them who can perform on this stage. That’s our goal over the next month-and-a-half left before it gets serious.”
SC travels Wednesday to Madison Central.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.