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Lady Maroons drop heartbreaker to Rockcastle

Jan. 5—MT VERNON — Fresh off the heels of being ranked in the top 10 in the first media poll for girls' basketball, the Lady Maroons made a trip to take on the Lady Rockets of Rockcastle, the first of two hotly anticipated meetings for not only the two favorites for the 47th District crown, but two of the top teams in the entire 12th Region.

This battle didn't disappoint either. A game of runs early on, at least for the first few quarters, gave way to an instant classic down the stretch. A balanced scoring attack gave the Lady Maroons a solid chance to win this ball game, a game full of three-pointers, but it was ultimately defense that sealed the deal for Rockcastle, as a steal and layup with just a second left on the clock from sophomore Taylor King handed Rockcastle a 73-71 victory over Pulaski.

Oddly enough, it looked early like the Maroons were the ones with home court advantage, as they got out to a quick 7-0 lead. Even more odd, those points did not come courtesy of Sydney Martin, who just Friday morning was named the 2023 CJ Female Athlete of the Year, as instead both Maggie Holt and Hannah Murray scored baskets with Brooklyn Thomas draining a three-pointer. Another three, this one from Madeline Butcher after the first points of the game for the Lady Rockets from sophomore Macy Spivey, gave Pulaski a 10-2 and forced a timeout from Rockcastle.

That lead was far from safe though, as balanced scoring from the Rockets brought the lead for the Maroons down to just two points at 11-9. Pulaski was far from done putting up points either however, as they went on a 11-4 run to close the period and got out to a 22-13 lead. Martin finally got on the board during the run with two made shots from deep, while Taylen Ralston added the other five points including a three-pointer that was banked in.

The Lady Rockets tied the game up very quickly in the second quarter as they went on a 10-1 run, with both Haven and Taylor King scoring four points apiece. Martin quickly broke the tie with a three-pointer, before a three from McKaila Monroe made the score 29-25 with time dwindling in the half. Another run, this one from the home team, flipped that lead heading into the break, as the Rockets scored 8 of the final 10 points to take a 33-31 after the first half. Spivey added five points during this spree.

Another three from Spivey opened the third quarter as Rockcastle took a 36-31 lead. The teams traded buckets after this for a few minutes until another run, 8-0 by the Rockets, gave them their biggest lead of the evening at 49-38. It seemed like desperation mode was settling in for the visitors, but that was far from the case.

Four straight threes from the Lady Maroons, two from Murray and one apiece from Ralston and Holt, got them within two points late in the third. In fact, Pulaski closed the period on a 18-4 run after six straight points from Martin, with the Maroons now leading 56-53 heading into the final period.

A Taylor King three tied up the game at the start of the fourth quarter, although it was once again an instance of Martin asserting herself with four straight points as the Lady Maroons led 60-56. A made basket from senior Talynne Shearer tied the game up at 62 before an offensive put-back from Murray once again gave Pulaski a three-point cushion.

It became a game of free throws late in the contest, as following two made from the line by both Martin and Butcher, Pulaski was nearing a victory as they led 69-64. A huge three-point play from Taylor King tied the game up at 69-69 with only about a minute left on the clock. Martin was then fouled and hit both from the stripe to give the Lady Maroons a two-point advantage that seemed to give them the victory with only a few moments remaining. However, as we all know in the world of basketball, anything is possible in a few moments.

King hit a bucket plus the harm but missed the free throw, giving Pulaski the ball with about seven seconds left. Disaster then struck, depending on which team you were rooting for, as King came up with a steal and had a wide open basket to make the game-winning layup with just a second left on the scoreboard. Rockcastle earned a 73-71 win with that basket in what was an absolute classic of a showdown between two district rivals.

The Lady Maroons were led in scoring by a game-high 28 points from Martin, who also had seven rebounds and four steals, with Murray joining her in double figures with 10 points, while also having four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Other scorers included Butcher and Ralston with eight, with Butcher also contributing eight steals with 10 assists, Holt with seven, while also having five rebounds and seven assists, Thomas with five and Monroe with three. Spivey led Rockcastle with 25 points.

Pulaski falls to 12-3 for the season, with the Lady Maroons scheduled to take part in the Simpson's Tree Service/H+W Sports Classic at Franklin County on Saturday. They will square off with another top 10 team in the Cooper Lady Jaguars at 10:30 a.m.

Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at jpratt@somerset-kentucky.com.