GLASGOW — The Todd County Central girls’ basketball team played an ugly brand of basketball Thursday night.
That’s just the way the Lady Rebels wanted it.
TCC (18-9) shot 61.1 percent after halftime against fast-paced Warren Central and played keep-away for most of the fourth quarter, grinding to a 41-37 win in the first round of the girls’ Region 4 Tournament at Barren County High School.
“You’ve got to be fundamentally sound,” TCC coach Steve Phillips said. “We hit a couple backdoors, which is always big because it relieves some tension from our girls. But we’re used to playing that way. We make it ugly, but as long as we’re surviving and advancing, we’re not here to win any beauty contests.”
The Lady Rebels move on to meet Allen County-Scottsville at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the semifinals at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Lady Patriots advanced Thursday with a win over Metcalfe County.
TCC has won a Region 4 Tournament game in each of the last three seasons. It entered Thursday allowing 41 points per game this season.
“The last month, we’ve been grinding games out like this,” Phillips said. “We’re fourth in the state defensively, and we showed that tonight. That’s where we live and die.”
The teams combined to score 26 points in the first half on 10 of 39 shooting. Neither team recorded a double-digit quarter before the break.
Warren Central (14-18) created what little separation there was by netting five free throws and outrebounding TCC 20-11 in the first half.
WCHS junior forward Angel Hill and seventh-grade forward Zakoria Hill combined for 11 points and 13 rebounds before halftime, but TCC outrebounded the Lady Dragons by nine in the second half to narrow that gap.
Warren Central was making its first Region 4 Tournament appearance since 2005. The Lady Dragons’ last region tournament victory came in 2000 against the Lady Rebels.
The Lady Dragons struggled with TCC’s man-to-man defense, which they hadn’t seen in several games, coach Chris Stunson said.
WCHS beat the Lady Rebels 45-41 on Dec. 10 in Bowling Green.
“It’s hard making that shift,” Stunson said. “You saw at times that we struggled going from our zone offense to our man-to-man offense. But you’ve got to give Todd credit. They do a good job with help-side defense, and they beat us on the boards. We thought we could dominate the boards.”
Senior guard KiKi Britt’s 3-pointer with 3:57 left in the third quarter gave Warren Central a 23-19 lead, but TCC scored 11 of the last 15 points in the frame to pull ahead 30-27.
The Lady Rebels came out trying to milk the clock in the fourth and scored seven unanswered points to push their advantage to 37-29 with 3:36 left.
“We’ve been here four out of the last five years,” Phillips said. “They did what they had to do in the stretch run. Not to take anything away from Warren Central – they’re young and quick – but I think in the last few minutes, our experience was able to show itself.”
The Lady Dragons worked through TCC’s stalling tactics to spark a 7-1 run, and freshman guard Tia Barnett’s baseline jumper cut their deficit to 38-36 with 1:40 left.
But Warren Central couldn’t get any crucial shots to drop. Barnett missed a free throw that would’ve tied it at 38 with 1:19 to play, and her jumper to take the lead with 40 seconds remaining was off the mark.
Britt missed an open 3-pointer to tie from the corner with 13 seconds on the clock, and TCC’s Julia Fox followed with a free throw to ice it.
“Sometimes you get shots, and they just won’t fall,” Stunson said. “Our girls are very young, and I’m really proud of them. I think we can take this as a learning experience and move forward.”
The Lady Dragons graduate three seniors in Britt, Kiloisha Holley and Jamila Whitfield.
Angel Hill paced them Thursday with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Zakoria Hill had eight points and eight rebounds.
Senior guard Ariel Johnson led the Lady Rebels with 19 points, and junior forward Claire Hart chipped in nine points and nine rebounds. TCC scored at least as many points in each quarter of the second half as it did in the entire first half.
“It was really tough,” Johnson said. “But we got our business done, and we hung in there really strong. Coach said we had to rebound more. In the second half, we did that and kept our composure.”
The Lady Rebels didn’t play their next opponent, ACS, in the regular season. Bowling Green and Russell County advanced in Wednesday’s first-round tournament games.
“We’re just proud to be in the next round,” Phillips said. “Our goal, like their goal, is to go a little further.”
WCHS 9 6 12 10 — 37
TCC 7 4 19 11 — 41
WCHS — A. Hill 13, Z. Hill 8, Barnett 7, Patterson 4, Britt 3, Satterfield 2.
TCC — Johnson 19, Hart 9, Fox 6, Foister 5, Rose 2.