MURRAY — With 31.6 on the clock, Lady Laker Charlee Settle took a glance at the scoreboard. She had just hit a free-throw, extending her team’s lead to 40-37, but that gap wasn’t enough for the Murray State commit. She buried her second free-throw and went on to grab an offensive rebound with 11.9 left in the game, after Adison Hicks missed a pair of free-throws, and calmly iced the game away.
When the buzzer went off, Calloway County had defeated the Murray High Lady Tigers 42-37. Not only is this Calloway’s first win of the season, but it is also the first time the Lady Lakers have beaten Murray High in the crosstown rivalry since 2012, and Lady Laker head coach Valerie Waller said it felt great.
“It’s a great feeling,” Waller said. “It’s a good thing for our kids and our program to start district play off this way. This is the first time we’ve played districts before Christmas since I don’t know when. I think that’s a positive thing for us to get this victory so early.”
Waller knows this game will be motivation for her athletes as the season goes on.
“When we got beat last year on a last second shot, it was really hard for us to overcome that,” Waller said. “It’s really nice to be on the other side of that and to give of us some momentum going forward.”
At the start of the game, it was Murray High who had taken the lead 8-4, but Lady Laker Adison Hicks was able to close up the gap with a three-point ball. The sophomore’s first three-point shot of the season lessened the Lady Tigers’ lead to 12-11.
“She’s been struggling a little bit,” Waller said. “Even last year in the district play, those threes weren’t falling for her, and they haven’t even during the season.”
But Hicks has been bound and determined to better her shots. She’s stayed late after practices and even came in the gym to put up shots after the loss at McCracken on Tuesday night.
“It’s just good to see that pay off for her, and I think it’s going to give her a lot of confidence going down this stretch because she’s only a sophomore,” Waller said. “I think sometimes we forget that because we’ve seen her play for a couple years now, but she’s really only a sophomore, so it’s a different experience for her. I’m glad to see that three ball for her.”
After Hicks’ three, Clark was fouled and took the lead for the Lady Lakers 13-12 after a free-throw. Clark totaled six points and four rebounds against the Lady Tigers.
“Words can’t express the impact Sunny Clark made for us tonight,” Waller said. “I’m so proud of her. She wasn’t scared to shoot the basketball, and she’s a great shooter. She’s lights out, and I think she’s shown everybody that tonight,” Waller said. “We gave her a really hard task of guarding Calli Carver, and I thought she did a great job defensively, and she got some really important boards for us as well.”
Head coach for the Lady Tigers, Tom Foust, said that Calloway forced his team to have to hustle offensively to get a base started.
“They were chasing Calli and Angela (Gierhart), so we had to get really creative on some of their stuff,” Foust said. “Some of the stuff we just haven’t had to work out yet, but we haven’t had those two at the same time. We had our two guards face-guarded. There are a few things that worked and a few things that didn’t. That’s on me 100%. I just have to have them more prepared.”
However, Foust was pleased with how his players were able to contain Settle. The team placed senior Jamera Jones at the rim for protection, and kept the physical Gierhart by Settle’s side.
“I thought Angela did a great job on her, making every touch really labored, and we had Jamera there to help her for the double,” Foust said. “I thought we did a great job defensively.”
The duo was able to hold Settle to three field goals all night, but aggressive guarding cost the team eleven points worth of free-throws from Settle.
“I just thought rebounding hurt us, and a few lucky breaks didn’t go our way. A few calls didn’t go our way,” Foust said.
Even with such extreme defensive pressure, Settle still managed to net 17 points and grab nine rebounds.
“That’s what she’s going to see night in and night out,” Waller said. “For me, the most proud I am of her is how she handled that pressure. I think there is so much pressure on her to do this and do that, and she allowed her teammates to help her win tonight and didn’t let it bother her all night long. I thought that showed, especially the last two and a half minutes when we needed her to go to the line and have the basketball in her hand.”
Last night’s tight game is something that is definitely going to help both teams as they continue on with their seasons.
The Lady Lakers have another tough district matchup on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. with Graves County. The Lady Eagles defeated Murray High earlier in the week 38-34. Murray High will be competing today at the Lady Mustang Classic against Apollo at 4:30 p.m. Foust is already shaking off last night’s game and looking forward.
“It’s a long season,” Foust said. “This game matters in the sense of a regional seeding, but you’re going to have to play a tough team in this region to get out of it no matter what. Win or lose, we weren’t winning a district championship tonight, so our season doesn’t end tonight.”