The Apollo girls’ basketball team is headed to the 3rd Region Tournament championship after grinding out a 49-39 win over Muhlenberg County in Saturday’s semifinal.
Though they never trailed in the second half, the E-Gals (20-12) had to fight to maintain a slim lead in a chippy matchup with the Lady Mustangs (18-15).
“We had our backs against the wall, but our kids didn’t fold,” said Apollo head coach Natalie Payne. “We bent but we didn’t break.”
The E-Gals rode the hot hand of Lexi Shadowen, who scored the team’s first 6 points. She finished with a team-high 22 points and three 3-pointers, and she went 9-for-10 at the free throw line.
“We always like to try to do that for her,” Payne said of getting Shadowen rolling early. “She’s our quickest kid off the dribble. She finds people if she gets shut down. That was key for us.”
After four lead changes and three ties in the opening frame, the teams were knotted at 10-10 heading into the second quarter.
Zoe Floyd scored after she backed down a defender in the lane, and Apollo never trailed again. Shadowen scored the E-Gals’ final 8 points of the period, and her third 3-pointer of the night gave them a 23-14 advantage. Muhlenberg added a late bucket to face a 23-16 hole at the break.
The Apollo lead was cut to 23-22 within the first two minutes of the third quarter. Three times, the Lady Mustangs got within 1 point, but each time the E-Gals responded and they held a 30-27 edge going into the final period.
Twice more Muhlenberg cut the deficit to a single point. A 3-pointer from Kassidy Daugherty put Apollo up 35-31, and she hit a pair of free throws for a 7-point lead with 2:19 to play.
Muhlenberg County couldn’t make a run, and the E-Gals hit their free throws down the stretch for the win.
“We had to regroup a lot and try to outthink and outsmart instead of use athleticism at times,” Payne said. “We had some kids step up and make big plays on their own at times, and that’s what they have to do at tournament time. I’m proud of their toughness. It boiled down to some mental toughness, and we’ve been working toward that all year.”
Apollo advances to the championship game at 7 p.m. Tuesday, and they’ll face Owensboro Catholic (26-7) for the fourth time this season. The Lady Aces ran away from Breckinridge County for a 61-31 victory in the other semifinal Saturday. The Lady Aces have won all three meetings so far.
Apollo last made it to the title game two seasons ago in Payne’s first year at the helm, and they last won the region in 1997 during Payne’s senior season. She said the team is ready to try to make the trip to the Sweet 16.
“We’re confident in our ability to give them a challenge,” she said. “We’re not going to back down to anybody. Our kids our ready.”
Muhlenberg Co. 10-6-11-12–39
Apollo: Lexi Shadowen 22, Kassidy Daugherty 17, Zoe Floyd 5, Amber Dunn 3, Amari Sanders 2
Muhlenberg Co.: Destine Armour 26, Elisabeth Johnson 11, Whitlee Stovall 2