"I just told them that when you get to this game, you are just running on pure adrenaline," Nuckols said.
She certainly knows the feeling.
Nuckols played on the other Monroe County team to ever reach the All "A" Classic title game and 11 years later she was once again celebrating a state championship at McBrayer Arena. The Lady Falcons scored 17 of the final 23 points of the game to rally past St. Mary, 64-60, in the finals.
Kenzie Rich, the tournament's most valuable player, had a game-high
23 points and 10 assists and Chelsea McCreary added 15 points
as Monroe County claimed its second championship.
"They say that history repeats itself," Nuckols said. "I'm just so proud of them. This was one of our goals all year."
Monroe County defeated Lexington Catholic in the 1995 All "A" Classic finals, but had not been back to the tournament since. The Lady Falcons rolled through the first three rounds, improving their all-time tournament record to 7-0, then had to fight back late to defeat the Lady Vikings.
St. Mary had a 54-47 lead with 4:22 left in the game, but Rich and McCreary ignited the title-clinching run.
"We got down seven and I got a little worried," Monroe County coach Dwayne Murray said. "I just told them to keep their heads up and keep fighting. They played with a lot of heart all week."
Laura Anderson cut the St. Mary lead to four points with 2:55 left, then Rich and McCreary combined to score the Lady Falcons' final 13 points. Monroe County trailed 55-49 with 2:55 left, but Rich hit two free throws then came up with a steal seconds later that setup McCreary's game tying lay-up.
After St. Mary senior center Angela Roof missed a free throw, McCreary put the Lady Falcons back in front on a free-throw line jumper.
"I said to myself I needed to get it together because I wanted to win this thing," McCreary said.
Roof missed two more free throws with 1:44 left, then Rich delivered again. The senior guard drained more than half a minute off the clock, then drove into the lane for an easy basket that gave Monroe County a four-point lead.
"That's pretty unusual for us," said St. Mary senior Danielle Averill, who also missed two free throws in the final minutes. "We are usually a good free-throw shooting team. I don't know happened."
Averill added a three-pointer with 28.1 seconds left, but Rich hit four-of four free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory.
"I think they were pretty tired," Rich said. "Once we started playing the way we should then that started to get to them."
The loss ended a storybook tournament run for the Lady Vikings. In its first-ever All "A" Classic appearance, St. Mary knocked off two ranked teams - Lexington Christian Academy and Rose Hill - and also defeated a two-time former champion - Hazard.
"Is it a tough loss? Yes," St. Mary coach Staci Averill said. "Am I disappointed with them? No. They played their hearts out."
Roof was the driving force behind the title run. The 6-foot-3 center had 30 points and 19 rebounds in the title game and finished with 113 points in the tournament, a new record.
The senior once again simply dominated at times. She had 12
points and six assists in the first quarter, then had seven points
early in the fourth as the Lady Vikings built their largest lead.
"We tried to push her out and double-team her," Murray said. "Some of the people we had double-teaming her couldn't reach up and touch the top of her head."
Averill had 13 points and six rebounds, Abby Townzen had nine points and Amber Everson added eight points.
Anderson finished with 10 points and five assists and Rich also had six assists.
"It's been great," Murray said. "It's been a great ride."
Averill, Roof and Everson were named to the All "A" Classic All Tournament Team for St. Mary, while McCreary amd Rich were also selected to squad. Other All-Tournament selections included: Sophie Robinson (Middlesboro), Libby Thoke (Trimble County), Britt Faulkner and Emily Queen (Rose Hill), Chelsee Jarrell and Kendra Carroll, (Paintsville) and Chiquita Evans (Moore).
Relying mostly on a talented, but completely inexperienced group of freshmen, the Tigers picked up just five wins and finished with the worst record in the 5th Region.
Bardstown lost 10 in a row during one stretch and suffered a 28-point setback in the first round of the district tournament.
"It took some creative scheduling just to get those (five wins)," Goode said of the 2002-2003 season.
But things slowly started to get better.
The Tigers won 10 games in Goode's second year, then finished last season with an impressive 21-6 record.
And led by the six seniors who had suffered through all those tough times, Bardstown entered this year's Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic on a 10-game winning streak.
In their first-ever appearance in the tournament, the Tigers capped their amazing turnaround by shocking the field on the way to an unlikely championship. Bardstown finished off their surprising title run by upsetting Owensboro Catholic 53-50 Sunday in the finals at McBrayer Arena.
"I thought this was a possibility," said Bardstown senior Brian Calhoun, the tournament's most valuable player. "We've been playing together since we were kids. Coach stuck with us and we just stuck together."
Early on, it didn't look like Tigers were going to be able to knock off Owensboro Catholic. The Aces used a big size advantage, including the play of 6-foot-8 center Jay Ivey, to jump out to a quick seven-point lead.
Ivey had 11 points in the first quarter, but after the Tigers dropped back into a zone, they were able to fight back, taking the lead when Calhoun hit a three-pointer mid-way through the second.
The senior guard scored 15 of his team-high 24 points in the first half as Bardstown took a 33-27 lead into halftime.
"He played great," Goode said of Calhoun. "He may have surprised some people who haven't seen him play, but we see it day-in and day-out. It's no surprise to us."
The Tigers never relinquished the lead in the second half, even though the Aces had several chances to tie or take the lead in the final minutes. Travis Owsley's first basket of the game, a breakaway lay-up, cut Bardstown's lead to 51-50 with 3:22 left.
Andrew Howard missed a three-pointer moments later and after Owsley came up short on a put-back attempt and a Owensboro Catholic committed a costly turnover, Ivey missed from in close.
"We had chanced to win," Howard said. "We just didn't convert."
The Aces struggled offensive for most of the tournament. With the exception of a 66-point performance in a win over University Heights, Owensboro Catholic failed to score more than 50 points during its run to the finals.
"The stat that sticks out to me is three-point percentage," OC coach Mike Orr said. "With them playing a zone, we have to hit more shots than that. We just have to shoot better."
Calhoun gave Bardstown a three-point lead by hitting a pair of free throws with 13.3 seconds left, but the Aces had one last chance. Howard missed a three pointer, then Ivey's desperation shot at the buzzer fell well short of the rim.
Calhoun was seven-of-13 from the field, three-of-six from three-point
range and seven-of-eight from the free throw line. He also had
nine rebounds and three steals.
"He was all over the place," Orr said of Calhoun. "His quickness and strength around the basket really hurts."
Kurtis Neel hit four three pointers and finished with 14 points for Bardstown. Ivey was nine-of-11 from the field and had 22 points, while Howard added 11 points.
Owsley was one-of-10 from the field and had just two points.
Neel and Elliott Mattingly were both named to the All "A"
Classic All Tournament team, along with Howard, Ivey and Owsley.
Other all tournament selections included: Tony Hockett (Mayfield),
Zach Kiernan and Kevin Bueter (Newport Central Catholic), Joshua
Mack (University Heights), Nathan Holton (Somerset) and Troy Cooper
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