The only tornado that touched down in Calloway County Thursday night was blue and targeted Murray High’s gymnasium.
Paducah Tilghman’s Lady Blue Tornado (20-8) delivered the Lady Tigers (25-4) their lone regional and home loss of the season, 58-50, behind hot shooting behind the arc and tough rebounding.
After scouting the squad earlier this week against Calloway County and then seeing them take advantage of Murray miscues on Thursday, head coach Rechelle Turner was not surprised by Tilghman’s strong play.
“I said at the very beginning of the season that they are one of the regional favorites because they have everything,” Turner said after the loss. “They have speed, they have height, they have shooters. They have every piece of the puzzle, and they showed that tonight.”
A stingy man-to-man defense held Murray to just five points in the early going, allowing the Lady Blue Tornado to stake a 10-5 lead headed into the second quarter.
The Lady Tigers claimed their first lead, 11-10, when Maddie Waldrop shook her defender and hit an easy leaner for two of her team-high 17 points. Tilghman’s Miriah Donelson, however, answered with one of her four threes on the night – she finished with 14 points.
Murray’s Julie Thiede opened the third quarter with a curl and lay-up to make it 20-16, but Karlee Humphrey – mostly bottled in the first half – hit a three to cut the lead 20-19. She would eventually finish with 17 points to lead Tilghman.
Using pinpoint passing through Murray’s trap and zone defense, Tilghman would hit five more threes in the quarter – two from Donelson, two from Whitney Shaw and one more from Humphrey – to take a 36-32 lead into the fourth.
Elizabeth Grogan breathed life back into the Lady Tigers with a three from the left wing to cut it to 38-35, but Tilghman pulled away. Tilghman’s Alex Kohler took a Waldrop turnover to the basket to make it 44-39 with 2:17 remaining in regulation, forcing Turner to employ chain fouling, a systematic way to slow the game down by fouling shooters and create more possessions for the Lady Tiger offense.
It nearly worked – Bethany Armstrong was able to steal the inbounds pass from Humphrey and draw the foul, where she made 1-of-2 to draw within four, 44-40, and two minutes still on the clock.
Kohler was fouled and missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, but the box out wasn’t there, and Joya Smith hit the putback for a 46-40 lead, essentially forcing Turner and her platoon to foul the rest of the way.
Tilghman would close out the game by going 12-for-18 from the line in the final 90 seconds.
Turner’s post-game discussion was a lengthy one, serving as a call for her players to rise to the challenge of the up-and-coming district and regional tournaments.
“When you win games, you don’t necessarily want to put a damper on it by challenging kids and saying some things that need to be said, but we’ve got to have some kids step up,” Turner said. “To get to our ultimate goal, we’ve got to have kids playing some better basketball and doing some certain things, so it was an opportunity for me to challenge them.
“I know these kids. They will accept that challenge and step up to the challenge and we’ll be ready to go. We hate to lose, especially at home, but credit goes to Paducah Tilghman.”
Murray closes the regular season tonight at Carlisle County before playing the winner of Calloway County and Marshall County next Thursday for the district championship.