FRANKFORT — Newport Central Catholic’s size was just too much for the Pineville Lady Mountain Lions to overcome Wednesday as dropped a 58-32 decision to the Thoroughbreds in the first round of the Kentucky All “A” Classic.
Though they didn’t come away with a victory, the Lady Lions represented the 13th Region well with their hustle and sportsmanship throughout the game.
“This is something that no other girls team at Pineville has ever experienced. This group of girls has done something that no one has so, hopefully, they’ll take some confidence from that and see that we can play with these teams,” said Pineville coach Matt Shafer. “We’re a really, really young team and the fact that we were even here is quite an accomplishment for them. You get here and you get to see really where you stand.”
Alexus Mayes led NewCath with 17 points and Stephanie Lewis added 13. But the real difference-maker for the Thoroughbreds was forward Nicole Kiernan. The 5-11 junior finished with 10 points while grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds, she officially blocked six shots and altered countless others as Pineville was held to just 10-of-48 (21 percent) shooting.
Junior forward Devin Enix led the Lady Lions with 13 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Annalee Adams finished with six points, six boards and three assists, sophomore guard Emily Mullins chipped in with five points and six rebounds, and freshman guard Erica Gambrell added five points to go along with five boards and three steals.
Kiernan set the tone early on as she got the ball in the post on the opening possession and easily converted. She blocked three of the Lady Lions’ first four shot attempts and NewCath jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the game’s first five minutes.
“We haven’t faced an athletic post player like Kiernan, really since I’ve been here. She got to us and even the shots she didn’t block she did a good job altering. There were a couple times we just threw shots up because we knew she was somewhere around,” Shafer said. “It’s something that’s tough for us to practice against because we don’t have anybody that big.”
Gambrell got Pineville on the board with a layup at the 2:07 mark of the period. It was 19-3 after one quarter, but Pineville settled down from there and started finding some soft spots in the Thoroughbred defense.
Enix hit a pair of free throws, Adams added one and then converted a layup. A basket from Enix after Gambrell came away with an offensive rebound made it 26-10 with just under 5:00 left in the half.
Rachel Barnes hit a free throw and Mullins scored three points, but Mayes scored on a putback and then found Lewis under the basket for a layup and NewCath took a 37-15 lead into the locker room.
The Lady Lions had to feel a bit rattled from the way the first half had played out, but they didn’t show it to start the third quarter.
Stacey Washington grabbed a rebound and got the ball ahead to Adams, who drew a foul going to the basket and hit both free throws. Washington scored on a short jumper over Kiernan and Enix added a layup to cut the deficit to 39-21.
“That’s one thing about our girls: They never quit. That’s been true all year long, they scrap and they fight,” Shafer said. “(At halftime) they were down a little bit emotionally, but you could tell in their eyes that they truly believed we could come back. We’ve come back against good teams before. I just told them to go out and play hard and what happens, happens.”
With Kiernan drawing almost constant double-teams, Loren Zimmerman found a hole in the middle of the Lady Lions defense and drove in for a basket. Michaela Ware added a steal and layup, then Lewis hit a free throw after grabbing an offensive rebound as NewCath was back out to a 23-point advantage by the 3:00 minute mark.
Shafer said his plan was to try and get Kiernan in foul trouble on the defensive end while taking her out of the game on offense.
“We wanted to take it to her, get her off her feet and get into her body. She’s a heck of an athlete and a heck of a player. She did a really good job of twisting her body and making sure she didn’t get fouls. She’s probably the best player that I’ve seen all year,” he said. “Offensively, we did stop her a little bit. Our game plan was to let someone else beat us, but a couple of other girls did beat us. That’s a well-coached team over there.”
Pineville got baskets from Gambrell, Mullins and Enix in the fourth quarter, but NewCath went on to win by 26.
Despite the loss, Shafer said the All “A” experience was a good one for his team.
“Just for our program in general, the fact that I had a seventh-grader (Jillian Enix) out there late in the game and four seventh-graders that got to witness this atmosphere. That’s going to be great for us going forward, not that it’s much comfort right now,” he said.
Newport Central Catholic (16-4) advances to face Webster County in the quarterfinals on Friday at 10 a.m. while Pineville (14-8) will host Knox Central on Monday.
— — —
Pineville……3…12…11…6 — 32
NewCath….19…18….9…12 — 58
PINEVILLE (32): Devin Enix 13, Annalee Adams 6, Erica Gambrell 5, Emily Mullins 5, Stacey Washington 2, Rachel Barnes 1, Tiffany Sutton 0, Makayla Keyes 0, Autumn Short 0, Jillian Enix 0.
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC (58): Alexus Mayes 17, Stephanie Lewis 13, Nicole Kiernan 10, Imani Lankheit 9, Michaela Ware 4, Ainsley Davenport 3, Loren Zimmerman 2, MiKayla Seibert 0, Chelsea Schack 0, Sarah Neace 0, Jamie Lohr 0, Mikki Matteoli 0.