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If you like the number three, then Gallatin County High School was the place to be Friday night.
The Owen County Lady Rebels used three-point shooting to beat Carroll County for the third time this season en route to capturing their third straight 31st District Championship.
For everyone involved, it was the perfect trifecta.
“Three-peat, baby,” Owen County freshman Hannah Neeley said after the game.
“This is awesome,” Owen County sophomore Rianna Gayheart said following the win. “I was sitting on the bench and I told Hannah, this is the best feeling ever.”
Neeley and Gayheart were named to the District 31 All-Tournament Team. The duo combined for eight three-pointers in the win over Carroll County. Also named to the all-tournament team were senior Jensen Wainscott and freshman Courtney Waldrop.
After the game and still holding her all-tournament plaque, Waldrop talked about what the accomplishment meant.
“It’s pretty crazy. I wasn’t expecting it. It means a lot that we can contribute to our team that much just being freshmen,” Waldrop said.
For Wainscott and her fellow seniors, Emilie Davis and Eko Kemper, the win had been a season-long goal.
“It feels good,” Wainscott said after the game.
A few minutes later, the senior could be seen walking around the gym wearing the net around her neck.
The Lady Rebels got off to slow starts in both games of the tournament.
Against Henry County, the Lady Wildcats jumped out to a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter. Owen County then outscored Henry County 12-2 over the last six minutes to take a 19-15 lead at halftime.
The Lady Rebels opened up a 32-17 lead in the third quarter.
At that point, things seemed to be well in hand to everyone except the Lady Wildcats.
Over the next several minutes, Henry County outscored Owen County 15-6 to cut the deficit to 38-32 with just over two minutes left in the game. It would be as close as Henry County would come as the Lady Rebels went on to win the game, 47-37.
Carroll County advanced to Friday night by defeating Gallatin County, 51-43.
Against the Lady Panthers, the Lady Rebels again found themselves in an early hole as Carroll County jumped out to an 11-5 lead. Neeley then calmly drilled a pair three-pointers to tie the game.
Owen County continued to play well in the second quarter; and when Neeley again connected from three-point range with 2:15 left in the half, the Lady Rebels led 23-13. The Lady Panthers ended the half by scoring the final five points to cut Owen County’s lead to 23-18 at intermission.
In the second half, the Lady Panthers got as close as 26-25, but Gayheart knocked down back-to-back triples to give Owen County a 32-25 lead with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter.
From that point on, Carroll County did not challenge Owen County, and the Lady Rebels had their three-peat as they won the game 49-37.
Gayheart finished the game with 20 points while Neeley tossed in 14 points. Waldrop added six points to go along with Wainscott’s five points. Kemper had three points and Davis had one point.
“It’s really good for the kids,” Owen County Head Girls Basketball Coach Bob Osborne said after the game. “They had a lot of enthusiasm tonight. The girls wanted it bad. They all had their game face on coming over here tonight.”
Osborne was excited about the win over the Lady Panthers and his good friend Carroll County Head Girls Basketball Coach Randy Mefford. But he was also thrilled to see three underclassmen on the all-tournament team.
“The young girls stepped up,” said Osborne, who went on to say that while she means so much to the team, many people forget that Gayheart is still only a sophomore.
The win over Carroll County was the third year in a row the Lady Rebels defeated the Lady Panthers in the championship game. It was the fifth year in a row the two teams played for the district title.
As a way to celebrate the win, the team was met at the Owen County line in Sparta and given a police escort back to the school, including a victory lap around the courthouse.
Owen County will now take its blend of youth and experience into the eighth region tournament at Simon Kenton High School. The Lady Rebels opened up the tournament Monday night against host Simon Kenton. The Lady Pioneers are the defending eighth-region champs and runner-up of the 32nd district.
The Lady Rebels fell to the Lady Pioneers, 60-42, and were ousted from the tourney.
The News-Herald will have complete coverage next week.