12-PEAT: Southwestern blows past Wayne for district title

Mar. 1—"It feels really good, 12 in a row for the program. If they were going to beat us tonight, they were going to have to play harder than us for 32 minutes, and I feel like tonight the players really did play hard."

Junior Molden, the head coach of the Southwestern Warriors, was ecstatic following Southwestern's 62-39 beatdown of the Wayne County Lady Cardinals in Thursday night's 48th District title clash, giving the Warriors their 12th straight district crown. The team really wanted this victory too after the Cardinals upset them earlier this month in the Wig Wam and after struggling on offense in the first quarter, the Warriors did just that.

Before the game, Wayne County sophomore Adeline Heatherly took to the court to raise awareness for rare diseases on Rare Disease Day before both teams came to the center of the court to pray in a truly touching moment that proves basketball is more than just the game on the court, it is a game of life as well.

Jordyn McDonald was the first player to score as both teams struggled through shooting slumps to begin the game. Senior Jordan Collom tied the game up soon after, with Heatherly giving the Lady Cards their first lead of the game with a two. Dye hit a basket plus the harm before missing the free throw, tying up the game. Senior Cami Debord had two makes from the charity stripe to once again put Wayne up before Dye had a basket to tie the game at 6-6. The first quarter came to an end with the same score as neither team could get much going.

Dye went off for the Warriors in the opening minutes of the second, going on a 7-1 run by herself to give her team a 13-7 edge in the ball game with the lone Wayne County point coming on a free throw from Heatherly. Payton Acey, after missing her first few shot attempts, finally got on the board before baskets were traded by Cami Debord and McDonald.

Heatherly and Megan Loudermilk traded three-pointers later in the period, with the first two points from Kinsley Molden giving the Warriors a double digit advantage at 22-12. Collom scored the final five points of the half for the Cardinals, before an offensive put-back by who else but Dye was good just before the buzzer, giving Southwestern a 26-17 lead at the break. Coach Molden noted after the game that his team is finally getting Dye involved in the right ways in the offense.

"It took me all season to figure out how to put Jaelyn in positions to help us. Now that they are guarding Kinsley the way that they are, I figured out ways to spread the court and get Jaelyn to play to her strengths," he explained.

Dye and McDonald scored three points to open play in the second half before Cami Debord had the first made basket for the Cardinals. It was then time for Acey to dominate in the post, as she scored the next six points in a row to give the Warriors a 35-19 lead that was threatening to get out of hand. Loudermilk then launched a three from almost the logo at half court that swished in without even touching the rim, increasing the Southwestern lead to 17.

A three from Molden later and the Warriors' were on the doorstep of going up by 20 points. Freshman guard Kelci Debord hit a three of her own shortly before the conclusion of the third period, before it was once again Dye and Acey doing their thing by scoring the final three points of the quarter, giving their team a 44-27 lead and putting them just eight minutes away from the 12-peat.

Jessalyn Flynn got on the board with a layup shortly into the fourth before Heatherly answered on the other end. Molden drilled a three to finally push the Southwestern lead to 20 at 49-29. Acey sealed the game away for her team shortly after in her final game at the Wig Wam in what has been a stellar career, scoring nine straight points to increase the Southwestern lead up to 60-32. Molden added two last points for her team before both Kelci and Cami Debord would score before the end of the game. The buzzer sounded and it was the Warriors celebrating a wild 12th district title in a row courtesy of a 62-39 victory over the Lady Cardinals where they outscored their opponents 36-22 in the second half.

The Warriors were led in scoring by Acey with a game-high 20 points, with the senior also nearly grabbing a double-double with eight rebounds, as well as Dye with 17 and Molden with 12. Molden also grabbed eight rebounds during the contest. Other scorers included Loudermilk with six, McDonald with five and Flynn with two. Wayne County was led by Heatherly with 12 points.

Southwestern and Wayne County will both advance to next week's 12th Region Tournament hosted by Lincoln County. Coach Molden knows that this year's field is wide open but also thinks his team has a good of a shot to win it as anyone.

"The last three years the region has went through either us or Mercer County. This year the region is wide open. Our mindset is one-game winning streaks. We are not looking past anybody. We are finally getting healthy and whoever we draw, we are just going to dive in and do everything we can to play harder than them for 32 minutes," he elucidated.

The tournament draw will be held on Saturday.

Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at