Bowling Green got off to somewhat off a sluggish start against upstart Russellville in the first round of the Fourth Region Tournament as the Lady Purples led the Lady Panthers just 28-17 at the half.
But the Lady Purples cranked up the defensive pressure in the second half, and Bowling Green outscored Russellville 33-12 the rest of the way en route to a 61-29 victory at E.A. Diddle Arena.
“First give credit to Russellville,” Bowling Green coach Calvin Head said. “They had a great gameplan and kind of stagnated us in the first half. We had some good looks from outside that didn’t fall, and we tried to get our feet inside the paint more. I thought Saniyah (Shelton) did that well for us with a spark in the first quarter and the second quarter where she kind of carried us. We also did a good job of getting out in transition and scoring.”
Bowling Green (26-6) was led in the win by Shelton with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists while Keyozden Jones—who scored her 1,000thpoint during the contest—added 14 points and had five steals. Lynakaylah James tallied nine points off the bench and Meadow Tisdale finished with six for the Lady Purples, who forced Russellville to commit 24 turnovers and held the Lady Panthers to just 9-of-49 (18 percent) from the field.
“Defense is important for us,” Head said. “That’s how we’ve been successful all year long. We’re going to continue to preach that and rebounding. Hopefully we continue to play good defense in the tournament.”
Russellville (19-12) hung tough with the Lady Purples early, but the Lady Panthers had a difficult time handling Bowling Green’s pressure while also getting fatigued after halftime.
“We came out fighting in the first half,” Russellville coach Cameron Jackson said. “Anastasia Dowlen was out with foul trouble the entire second quarter which was tough for us. We just kind of ran out of gas going into the second half.”
Dowlen paced Russellville with 12 points while Amiyah Collier added 14 rebounds for the Lady Panthers, who will return every single player for next season.
“Last year I said we would be back and we made it back this year,” Jackson said. “We have everybody coming back next year and these ladies are going to be more committed. We’re about a step away from where we need to be, and you’ll see a different group next year.”
Bowling Green will now advance to play Russell County in the semifinals on Friday night. The Lady Lakers—who advanced with a 40-36 win over Glasgow earlier in the day—defeated the Lady Purples 43-42 in the final game of the regular season in Russell Springs.
“They’re a 20-win team,” Head said. “Coach Blankenship has done a great job in his first year, Star Marcum is a heck of a player and we have to bring our ‘A’ game. We have to get off to a good start, we have to attack their zone, and we have to limit their shooters.”
Jones and the rest of her teammates are ready to come out and play well after a self-described poor performance in the first meeting.
“We played bad as a team,” Jones said. “Our rebounding was off, our shots were off, and we just played bad all around. But it isn’t going to happen again.”
Bowling Green 61, Russellville 29
Bowling Green (61): Saniyah Shelton 22, Keyozden Jones 14, Lynkaylah James 9, Meadow Tisdale 6, Aiyana Gurley 5, Ava Bennett 3, Janiya Bailey 2.
Russellville (29): Anastasia Dowlen 12, Jordin Morris 4, Brinley Mason 3, Macaria Hines 3, Jaylah Kees 3, Amiyah Collier 2, Chloe Whitescarver 2.
Bowling Green 19 9 13 20 –61
Russellville 10 7 4 8 –29