2A sectional title is net result of Boyle girls’ growth

Published 11:24 am Monday, January 8, 2024


Contributing Writer

A little piece of string is a pretty big thing for the Boyle County girls.

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The Lady Rebels cut down a net for the first time in a long time Thursday night, and the pieces of it the players took with them stood not only for what they had done but for what they still could do.

They claimed the spoils of victory by beating Mercer County 51-42 to win the Kentucky 2A Championships Section 5 girls tournament for the first time.

It’s the first time Boyle has won a championship of any kind in six years and quite likely the first time the Lady Rebels have cut down a net since their last district title in 2007.

“None of us have ever really experienced that before, so it’s so nice to be able to have a program where we can get ourselves there,” senior guard Annabelle Tarter said. “It’s fun to win, and it’s fun to win these championships. I’ve never in my five years been a part of it, so it’s been really fun.”

It’s also a really good indicator of the progress Boyle has made in its first season under coach Brian Britt. The Lady Rebels are 10-4, and they reached the finals of Berea’s tournament last week before beating Lexington Catholic and Mercer on consecutive days to claim their first tourney title since they won a tournament at Shelby County in December 2017.

“It’s incredible,” Boyle guard Payton Bugg said. “We’ve never done it, and it’s a huge accomplishment for our program, and I think we can go further than this.”

In the short term, they’re going to Owensboro next week for their first appearance in the eight-team statewide 2A tournament. Boyle will play Calloway County or Hopkins County Central in a quarterfinal Friday.

Britt and his players said the experience will help keep them from being intimidated by opponents they have struggled with in the past.

“I think this builds a lot of our girls’ confidence, especially mine, and I think with that confidence we can go into other games knowing it’s just a game and we should just play through it. It’s not the name of the team, nothing matters about that and I think that’s big for us,” Bugg said.

Boyle beat Mercer for the first time since 2001 – Mercer had won 23 straight games in the series – the same way it has gotten most of its wins this season: with aggressive pressure defense that flusters opponents and fuels the Lady Rebels’ offense.

“If we’re going to win games, we want as many possessions as possible,” Britt said. “Our goal is to take the first good shot. … If we’re making five, six, seven, eight, 20 passes, we’re looking to turn it over before we’re looking to shoot it. … I’m a defensive coach, and this program will be defense-driven because defense wins championships.”

Boyle forced 24 turnovers and committed only nine of its own, which is why it was able to win despite shooting 33 percent from the field.

“Coach Britt always says, ‘I don’t care how you play on offense, I know you can try hard and play your best on defense,’” Tarter said. “It’s all about hustle, it’s all about effort and I feel like we’ve really grown that pattern of continuously hustling and giving our best effort, specifically on defense.”

The Lady Rebels trailed by as many as nine points in the first half but rallied late in the second quarter and took control of the game by outscoring Mercer 16-2 in a third quarter in which the Lady Titans had 11 turnovers and only five shots.

While Mercer (9-5) didn’t score in the final 6 1/2 minutes of the period, Boyle scored 11 straight points to take a 38-27 lead. The Lady Titans pulled within four in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Rebels hit nine of 12 free throws in the final 2:15 to put the game away.

Bugg scored 16 points and Tarter, Andi Glasscock and Maggie Burke had nine each for the Lady Rebels.

Anna Drakeford had 26 points for Mercer, giving her 104 points in the three sectional games the Lady Titans played over three straight nights, but she had only nine in the second half.

Boyle has had only one winning season in the past seven years, and one of Britt’s first moves toward rebuilding the program was to build a stronger bond among the players.

“I feel like the coaches have really been intentional with both having team bonding but also being competitive with one another and really pushing ourselves to be our best, which we hadn’t really done before,” Tarter said.

Britt said he thinks fostering an atmosphere in which players enjoy being around each other goes hand in hand with working hard in practice.

“We’re creating an environment where they enjoy being around each other,” he said. “Everybody was like, ‘I came back because I want to be a part of changing this program. I don’t want to be the worst program in the school any more.’ And they’re doing it, you know, not just saying it but doing it with their actions … and it’s very much appreciated and they all deserve what they got tonight.”