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Lady Raiders almost blindside Bulldogs

The Lady Raiders nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the year Tuesday night, putting a scare into the Clinton County Lady Bulldogs. Despite a strong effort from McCreary, the game went down to the wire, and Clinton was able to hold on to a 48-44 win.

The Lady Raiders challenged Clinton County all night long, withstanding a smothering defense and staying within striking distance until the end. Clinton County entered the game with only 4 losses on the season, along with 23 wins, making them the top team in the 4th Region and a contender for the State Championship, but that didn’t seem to faze the Lady Raiders.

Coach Darry Burkett had nothing but praise for his team after the final buzzer.

“All I asked of the kids at the beginning of the year was for them to be getting better at the end of February,” he said. “I think tonight was a real good sign that we are.”

“Tonight was the best game we played, against the best team that we have played. We battled for 32 minutes. That is all I could ever ask of them. As long as they learn to compete, they’ll take that with them the rest of their lives.”

McCreary got off to a strong start.

Junior Kaylee Cotton’s 13-point first quarter, along with treys from Lauren Phillips and Hayley Jones propelled them to a 21-17 lead at the end of the period, and forced Clinton County to reassess their game plan.

Trouble began brewing in the second quarter when Cotton picked up her third foul with about three minutes left on a questionable charge call that negated a basket, and sent her to the bench for the remainder of the half.

McCreary didn’t buckle without their leading scorer, however, playing tough and closing out the first half just down by 4, 33-29.

It still was anyone’s game when the fourth quarter rolled around, and Clinton County Coach Darrell Thompson was clearly worried.

With the Lady Bulldogs clinging to a 2-point advantage with five minutes to go, Clinton County started to slow the pace of the game in hopes of forcing McCreary to make a move.

After a Bulldog basket increased their lead to 4, Lauren Phillips sank a trey with 4:26 left, closing the gap down to a single point. The Lady Raiders had an opportunity to steal the lead after a Clinton County miss on the next possession, but a McCreary turnover after pulling down the defensive rebound. On the play Clinton County drew a foul and hit one of two free throws to take a 46-44 lead.

Again, the Lady Raiders made a run, but another turnover led to another Bulldog basket and a four-point advantage with 2:45 left to go.

Following the basket, the Bulldogs really put on the brakes, engaging in a stall and forcing McCreary to foul to keep time on the clock.

Three times over the last two minutes Clinton County would go to the line for a bonus free throw, and three times they missed the shot, but McCreary had no luck on their end of the floor, missing three separate shots of their own to draw closer.

Cotton led the Raiders with 23 points, followed by Allison Anderson with 7, Lauren Phillips with 6, Paige Neal with 3, Haley Jones with 3 and Cyndol Kiser with 2.

McCreary will close out the season with a flurry of games. On Friday they host Pineville followed by a road trip to Hazard on Saturday. Action continues Monday evening at Rockcastle County and at home Tuesday against Pulaski County. Friday will also be Senior Night for McCreary, as they will honor their two graduating seniors before the game. The Lady Raiders close out the regular season Friday night at Garrard County.

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