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HEBRON ESTATES - She’s been looking for it over the course of the past three seasons.
On Thursday night, while she didn’t have a real good view of it, Amber Courtney found it.
The “it” was the signature win where her North Bullitt Lady Eagles would come out victorious by scrapping, fighting and clawing for 32 minutes.
The Lady Eagles fought from 11 points down in the third quarter to defeat a very talented Gallatin County squad to earn the First Citizens Bank Classic title on its home court.
Caitlin Montgomery took a nifty pass from Erin Dolan with 16 seconds to go to secure a 69-67 victory.
“This was huge,” said Courtney, who had to spend the last 9:56 of the game in the locker room after receiving her second technical of the contest. The Lady Eagles were down 50-44 after the technical foul shots.
The Lady Wildcats would stretch the lead to 11 on a three-pointer from Gloria Groves.
Down nine to open the final quarter, assistants Brandy Beichler and Katie Hardy guided the ship as Holly White keyed the comeback.
The senior nailed two of her three treys in the final period; however, Gallatin County, which had defeated Bullitt Central and Warren East to reach the finals, would not back down.
Beichler’s timeout at the 3:35 mark came as North Bullitt was down 64-58. Katie Downey came out of the timeout and hit a mid-range jumper and Gallatin County turned the ball over.
Dolan stepped to the line and drilled a pair of free throws to cut the margin to 64-62 with 2:43 left.
Another turnover gave North Bullitt the chance to tie. Reba Stice collected a tipped pass and scored inside to knot the score.
A rare miss by Gallatin County was followed by a foul on the rebound. Kasey McCoy stepped to the line and hit both for a 66-64 North Bullitt lead.
Another turnover gave North Bullitt the chance to stretch the lead. Downey’s path up court was interrupted but tourney MVP Savannah Morrison got the loose ball and was fouled. She hit one of two chances.
Brooke Dossett hit her only three of the night to tie the score with 1:17 left. A Lady Eagle turnover gave the visitors the chance to seal the victory.
Holding the ball, Brooke Dossett got free on a drive but her layup came out and the jump ball possession went to North Bullitt with 28 seconds left.
That set up the winning play as Dolan drove the middle and found Montgomery open for the layup.
It would be Dolan who would get the missed Gallatin County shot. She missed both free throws and there was one more chance.
With 1.4 seconds left, Gallatin County’s Hannah Dossett got a good look but her three-pointer at the buzzer fell off the rim.
Following an emotional post-game celebration, Courtney said there was no doubt that this was the program’s biggest win in her two-plus years at the helm.
“We adjusted. We fought. We never gave up,” said Courtney, whose team is now 9-4 on the season. “I never felt we were going to lose this game.”
Watching some of the previous two nights, Courtney knew that Gallatin was a quality team that could shoot the lights out. And they were also well coached and very quick.
In the game, the Lady Wildcats hit eight three-pointers but that production changed in the second half. Opening in a zone defense, Courtney had to switch to the man-to-man.
In the second half, Gallatin County opened up the floor and allowed Brooke Dossett to drive the lane. She had one three-pointer but drove the lane to account for 11 points in the third quarter alone.
“I think they may have gotten a little tired,” said Courtney. “It was a physical game and they didn’t substitute a lot.”
Conversely, the Lady Eagles seemed to get stronger and more physical as the game progressed.
“I knew we couldn’t play zone all night,” said Courtney. “That team shoots the ball too well. But our man defense was very aggressive.”
On offense, North Bullitt has something rare - a height advantage.
“We wanted to go inside and keep shooting,” said Courtney.
In the second half, the message on defense was to get five bodies to the defensive boards.
“We adjusted on the floor,” said Courtney. “We’re still a very young team but they grew up a lot tonight.”
Courtney pointed to a lot of key performances in the victory.
From White showing her senior leadership in nailing the pair of three-pointers late in the game.
To Dolan coming off the bench to provide a spark through her defensive pressure.
She credited the play of Savannah Morrison for playing tough defense and steady leadership on offense despite getting no time to rest.
Downey provided both an offensive and defensive spark throughout the tournament, said Courtney.
And to reach the finals, the play of McCoy and Shelby Morrison were keys in defeating a scrappy Henry County team in the semifinals.
“This is the biggest win in my three years because the kids didn’t quit,” said Courtney. “They faced adversity and never quit against an excellent basketball team.”
The win Thursday followed a 51-27 victory over Henry County.
The margin was larger than the actual contest as the pressing Lady Eagles finally wore down the visitors from the Eighth Region.
On this particular night, Courtney credited McCoy and Shelby Morrison with providing a spark off the bench.
In the opening round, North Bullitt buried Shawnee 50-15 for the second time this season.
First Citizens Bank Championship Game
NORTH BULLITT (11-25-10-23) 69 - Katie Downey 16, Savannah Morrison 14, Caitlin Montgomery 10, Kasey McCoy 9, Holly White 9, Reba Stice 6, Erin Dolan 5
Gallatin County (17-20-18-12) 67 - Brooke Dossett 19, Hannah Dossett 19, Mikkah Hignite 14, Gloria Groves 8, Autumn Bowen 6, Keegan Bowen 1
NORTH BULLITT (10-14-16-11) 51 - Savannah Morrison 17, Katie Downey 11, Shelby Morrison 9, Kasey McCoy 8, Holly White 2, Reba Stice 2, Erin Dolan 2
Henry County (5-5-15-2) 27 - Clifford 8, Setters 8, Payton 7, Stanley 2, Clark 2
NORTH BULLITT (15-18-9-8) 50 - Shelby Morrison 8, Katie Downey 8, Savannah Morrison 7, Kasey McCoy 6, Erin Dolan 6, Reba Stice 4, Caitlin Montgomery 4, Taylor McCoy 4
Shawnee (2-2-6-5) 15 - Adams 5, Butler 4, Cooper 4, Andrews 2
Courtney could miss three games
With the two technicals, Courtney is required to sit out the next three games.
She has asked athletic director Lee Barger to appeal the decision to the Kentucky High School Athletics Association.
The first call came apparently after she questioned a call in the in the second quarter. The second came for another comment about a call in the third quarter that Courtney said came from the stands and not from the bench.