James Weber , email@example.com
Jaynice Stovall ended her high school career Saturday, one of the winningest careers of anyone in the history of Holmes girls basketball or the state of Kentucky, period.
Stovall and the Bulldogs couldn’t keep up with the high-flying Flyers of Franklin County in the state semifinals of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet 16 at BB&T Arena. Franklin (33-5) won 51-36 and advanced to Sunday’s 2 p.m. final against Mercer County. Holmes, in its second trip to the state semis (2002), finished 29-6.
“These girls have been with me for four years,” said Holmes head coach Tony Perkins. “They’re like my daughters. I love them like my own kids. Jaynice is a competitor. If you divide up teams in practice, whatever team you put her on is probably going to win, whatever the drill is. She’s a one of a kind player. She gives it everything she can all the time.”
Holmes was 29-5 last season, reaching the state quarterfinals. The year before, the Bulldogs were 30-3 with all three losses coming to eventual state champion Holy Cross. The Bulldogs have a record of 106-25 the past four years, and lose point guard Stovall and reserve Kelsi Daniels.
“I told Jaynice you’ve done something that’s never been done in our history, going to two state tournaments in a row and three regional finals in a row,” Perkins said. “If you look at our record, over the last four years not many people in the Ninth Region has beaten us, and that hadn’t happened before.”
The run ended against Franklin, who will play in the state final for the second straight year after losing to Butler in last year’s championship game. The Flyers have never won a state title, nor have their opponents from Mercer County.
Holmes shot just 23.9 percent from the floor for the contest Saturday (11 of 46), including 2 of 14 from 3-point range. The Flyers focused their defense on junior post player Tyrah Englemon.
The Bulldogs, who normally play their starting five for virtually the entire game, were playing their third game in 48 hours. Franklin, who had played a triple-overtime thriller in Thursday’s quarterfinals, went nine deep tonight.
“They’re a good team,” Perkins said. “When you’re 11 of 46 form the field, you can’t beat a good team. We had nine turnovers at halftime, we don’t average nine for the year. They’re a good team and they had a lot to do with that. We didn’t come out with energy. It wasn’t because we didn’t want to, we just ran out of gas.”
Holmes trailed 10-3 late in the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Kindall Talley, last night’s hero against Simon Kenton; and a jumper from senior Princess Stewart, who was playing in front of her future college head coach, Brian Neal of Xavier. Neal was sitting at courtside during the game.
The Bulldogs cut it to 10-6 after one period on a basket from Englemon.
Two free throws from Olivia Hogan and a 3-pointer from eighth-grade guard Brooklynn Miles pushed the lead to 15-6. Miles added two transition layups at the end of the half to make it 26-15.
Miles had eight points in the half. She also had three assists. Stewart led the Flyers with nine points. FC only shot 9 of 24 in the half but forced nine Holmes turnovers and outrebounded the Bulldogs 16-12.
The ballhandling and poise of Miles and Stewart frustrated the Bulldogs all night. Franklin turned it over 15 times but the Bulldogs couldn’t cash in enough times.
Stovall had seven of Holmes’ 15 points in the half. The Bulldogs shot 4 of 15.
Both teams struggled shooting in the third quarter. Holmes was 3 of 18 in the period and Franklin 3 of 8.
With the margin at 12, 35-23, Holmes had the ball but turned it over on two straight trips. Stewart turned both of those into points in transition, first scoring a layup, then getting fouled at the goal and hitting both foul shots. It was 39-23 after three quarters.
Savannah Courtney scored a three-point play to start the fourth period, and the Flyers led by 19, 42-23.
“We came out slow,” Englemon said. “They got up on us and we didn’t pick it up like we usually pick it up. I’m just proud of my tea. We’re a really good group of girls.”
The Bulldogs got some bright spots from little-used players during the comeback effort.
Freshman Deara Stowers scored seven points including a 3-pointer. Daniels, Holmes’ other senior, played three minutes in the second half and grabbed three rebounds.
Englemon and Stovall were all-tournament picks.
Holmes (29-6): Johnson 3 2 8, Keith 0 1 1, Englemon 3 2 9, Stovall 2 5 9, Beckett 1 0 2, Stowers 2 2 7. Totals: 11 12 36.
Franklin County (33-5): Talley 2 0 5, Stewart 4 6 15, Cook 0 6 6, Miles 4 3 12, Courtney 3 1 7, Hogan 2 2 6. Totals: 15 18 51.