By Les Dixon
BARBOURVILLE — It wasn’t a last-second game-ending buzzer-beater, but none the less, Barbourville’s Kara Erslan’s last-second half-court heave at the end of the third quarter turned out to be just as important.
The three-point shot turned out to be the margin of victory for the Lady Tigers, as Barbourville made history Friday by capturing its first-ever 51st District championship, winning over Lynn Camp, 50-47.
“That shot was big,” Barbourville coach Andrea Hillard said. “Actually, it was huge. We ended up winning by three points and I know it was a big momentum shifter for us.”
Erslan said she thought the shot was going in when it released her hand.
“I stole the ball and when I shot it, I thought it had a chance,” she smiled. “I know it gave us a lot of confidence and this is just big for us. It’s our first district championship and we worked really hard to get to this point.”
Lynn Camp coach Richard Jones thought Erslan’s shot to end the second half was a back-breaker.
“We dug ourselves a hole early because we didn’t shoot the ball well, got in foul trouble and turned the ball over way too many times,” he admitted. “The game was lost in the first half. But to be honest, the halfcourt shot at the end of the third quarter turned out to be the difference in the game.
“I have to give our girls credit,” he added. “They fought really hard and came back and almost pulled it out. But we just turned the ball over too much.”
Hillard credited her team’s defensive play as one of the keys to the win. Barbourville forced Lynn Camp into 23 turnovers and limited the Lady Wildcats to only 17-of-54 shooting.
“I thought our defensive play won this game for us,” she said. “I thought we rebounded the ball well and forced a lot of turnovers and that was key.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we played some good defense tonight,” Hillard added. “This is just a great feeling. The girls really worked hard to win the school’s first district championship. This is great for everyone. This was a total 100 percent team effort tonight.”
Despite falling behind 30-18 at halftime, Lynn Camp never folded.
The Lady Wildcats forced Barbourville to misfire on its first 13 shots in the third quarter and cut their deficit to 33-29 with :43 remaining before Kara Erslan scored on a layup with :20 remaining and stole the ball seconds later and knocked down the halfcourt buzzer-beater to give her team a 38-29 edge going into the fourth quarter.
“That was just a big momentum shifter,” Hillard said. “It really got the girls going.”
The Lady Tigers held a 49-42 edge with :26 remaining before Lynn Camp made one final push.
Lynn Camp forced a couple of turnovers and hit two free throws with 5.7 remaining in the game to make the score 49-47, but Barbourville hit a free-throw with 4.1 left to take a 50-47 edge.
Kayla Smith rebounded the missed Lady Tigers’ second attempt, but came up short with a last-second heave.
Kelsey Erslan led all scorers with 20 points while knocking down 10-of-13 shot attempts from the free-throw line while Kara Erslan added 15. Smith led Lynn Camp with 14 points while Jessica May added 11.
51st District Girls Tournament
at Barbourville High School
Barbourville 50, Lynn Camp 47
Lynn Camp 9 9 11 18 47
Barbourville 12 19 8 12 50
Lynn Camp (47) – Smith 14, Wilson 4, May 11, Miller 8, Burke 3, Hollin 2, Bryant 5.
Barbourville (50) – Mills 5, Ka. Erslan 15, Ke. Erslan 20, Liford 4, Bunch 2, Hicks 4.