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WARRIORS ADVANCE: Southwestern blows past Danville

Mar. 7—STANFORD — The last time the Southwestern Warriors competed in the region tournament at Lincoln County High, they won the whole thing en route to a State Final Four run. In order to get back to the title game, they first had to get past a Danville team that was peaking at just the right time under legendary head coach Judie Mason.

The Lady Admirals, at least in the first half, gave the Warriors everything they could handle and then some. However, head coach Junior Molden had his team focused heading out of the break and eventually Southwestern ran away with the win in convincing fashion.

Kinsley Molden opened the game with back-to-back three-pointers from deep beyond the three-point line. Talk about an opening statement. Sophomore Tayvionna Caldwell scored the first points for the Ads before Molden then scored on a traditional three-point play, giving her nine points in the blink of an eye. Payton Acey added her first points of the game, giving the Warriors an 11-4 lead with all 11 points either scored or assisted on by Molden.

A three-point play by Megan Loudermilk gave the Warriors a near 10-point lead before Danville closed the quarter on a 7-0 run, including five of those from junior Alayah Quisenberry, to decrease their deficit down to just 14-13.

Danville kept pace with Southwestern throughout much of the second quarter before a free throw from Molden plus the first three of the night from Jessalyn Flynn gave the Warriors a 22-18 edge. They ended up in front 23-20 at the half after another two from Quisenberry plus a made free throw from Acey.

Coach Molden clearly wasn't pleased at the break, and noted that he changed defenses heading into the third quarter.

"I went to more of a junk defense to keep the ball out of the lane to get us more opportunities on transition. You never feel comfortable in a game when Judie Mason is on the other sideline however," he explained.

Back-to-back baskets from Acey and Jaelyn Dye got the Warriors out to a great start out of the break. Eventually, after baskets from Dye and Molden, Southwestern started the period on a 9-2 run and forced a timeout by the Admirals. Danville bounced back quick too, as junior Myla Turner hit a three and Caldwell had a basket inside to cut the lead down to 32-27. Molden and freshman Anye Thompson then traded three-pointers.

Molden soon drained yet another three, followed soon after by another three from Flynn, and the Warriors had their largest lead of the game at 42-30. Jordyn McDonald scored three straight soon before the end of the quarter, with Quisenberry finally scoring her first two of the half, as Southwestern took a 45-32 lead into the final eight minutes of action.

Acey began the fourth as she did the third, with a made basket inside. Dye followed that up with a layup after a full court assist from Molden. Flynn then took over with five straight points that increased the Southwestern lead to over 20 points at 54-32, with the game beginning to slip away from the Lady Admirals.

Soon after, coach Molden was able to get his bench some playing time as with just a few minutes left in the contest, the result wasn't really in question anymore. Numerous players off the bench scored for Southwestern, with Ava Jones, Kenzie Williams, Mollie Osborne and Krystin Dezarn all scoring. Dezarn, the senior captain for the Warriors, got the crowd hyped in the final moments with a layup. Southwestern celebrated a 69-43 victory over Danville a few seconds later, advancing on to their fourth-straight 12th Region semifinals.

The Warriors were led by Molden with 20 points, as well as Acey with 12 and Flynn with 11. Acey also earned a double-double with 14 rebounds, with Molden coming close to one with eight rebounds. Danville was led by Quisenberry with 23 points.

Southwestern will face off against West Jessamine in the semifinals, with coach Molden well aware of how strong the Colts have looked this season.

"We played them super early in the season, and I told everybody then that West Jessamine was coming and they will be here for years to come. Everyone was looking forward to the PC-SW matchup, but I told my players to not look past their first opponent. I'm just glad we were able to survive and advance," he stated.

The game between the Warriors and the Colts will take place on Friday at 8:15 p.m.

Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at jpratt@somerset-kentucky.com.