Indiana found out Friday night what senior-year opponents from Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and Virginia already knew about Scott County’s Maaliya Owens.
Simply stated: Don’t give the 5-foot-9 shooting guard even a little bit of room behind the 3-point stripe if it looks like she’s on anything close to a hot streak.
Kentucky’s senior all-star team never trailed after Owens’ 3-pointer with 5:21 remaining. The Bluegrass bunch finished off a 79-74 win over their Hoosier counterparts at Bellarmine University in Louisville.
Owens hit five 3-pointers in all and finished the showcase with 18 points.
Her assault from outside helped Kentucky tie its record in the series for made 3-pointers (12) and smash its previous single-game standard for attempts (34).
It was the first of back-to-battles in the traditional end to the school and hoops year, one on each side of the state line.
Saturday’s finale at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis was an equally exciting, if much colder shooting, affair.
Kentucky pushed Indiana to overtime before the hosts hammered out an 8-0 finishing kick to prevail, 76-71.
Both nights featured a valiant Kentucky comeback. Owens’ team trailed by 12 points in the second quarter and was down eight on the other side of intermission before rallying to Friday’s win. Indiana led the encore by a baker’s dozen, 51-38, in the final minute of the third quarter.
Savannah Wheeler, Kentucky Miss Basketball and a Marshall University signee out of Boyd County, led the scoring Friday with 19 points along with six rebounds.
Owens, a finalist this past winter for that award and also named 11th Region player of the year, will play at Tennessee Tech. She graduated from SCHS with the third-most points in school history, trailing only Ukari Figgs and Rebecca Gray Dyer.
Lauren Schwartz of Ryle added 12 points and six rebounds in the Kentucky win. Male’s tandem of Joelle Johnson (10 points) and Cameron Browning (nine points, 10 rebounds) made hefty contributions.
Browning’s two-game total of 28 rebounds was the second-most by a Kentucky female in the history of the interstate series, trailing only the renowned Donna Murphy.
Kentucky also grabbed a team record 69 rebounds in Saturday’s contest, in part due to sluggish shooting on both sides.
Only three of Kentucky’s 22 3-point tries went through the hoop on the evening, and it shot only 23 percent overall from the field.
The saving grace for Kentucky was a 32-for-43 showing from the free-throw line.
Kentucky went on a 26-13 run at the end of regulation before Indiana pulled away in overtime.
Wheeler again had 19 points to lead Kentucky. Browning’s double-double featured 13 points and 18 rebounds.
Emma King of Lincoln County, signed to play at the University of Kentucky, chipped in 10 points.
The boys’ two games were nightmarish for Kentucky, which was missing top players Michael Moreno of Scott County (Eastern Kentucky), Dontaie Allen of Pendleton County (UK) and Kyle Rode (Liberty), and couldn’t counter Indiana’s depth and firepower.
Indiana cruised on Friday, 97-64, and won by an even wider margin, 120-74, in the second round. The gap in the latter contest was the second-largest in the history of the rivalry.
J.J. Kalakon of Waggener led Kentucky with nine points in Friday’s defeat. Isaiah Cozart of Madison Central coupled eight points with 12 rebounds, while KyKy Tandy of University Heights also scored eight. Brandon Newman led the charge for Indiana with 18.
Kentucky’s halftime gap Saturday was an attainable 49-36 before the home team hit the accelerator, Tre Smith of Taylor County (13 points), David Johnson of Trinity (12) and Reid Jolly of Campbell County (11) tried to keep pace for Kentucky.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.