County battle paces girls top 5

South Knox's Shelby Osborne looks to pass against Lincoln defenders Dani Kroeger (13) and Victoria Jackson as Mykayla Couchenour of the Spartans looks on in their Jan. 18 game at Alice Arena. The Spartans' 73-71 victory was the top game in the 2019-20 season.

The girls basketball season, as has often been the case over the last decade, had plenty of wins with 91 among the six area schools.

Several of those victories were lopsided, but the girls showed they could deliver when it was tight too, and those were the games that stick out.

For those who were at Alice Arena on Jan. 18, they saw a South Knox-Lincoln game that might takes years to top.

Here were the top five games in 2019-20.

1. South Knox 73, Lincoln 71 — The county schools haven't had many intriguing matchups in the past. The Alices, always with a decided size advantage, had defeated the smaller-school Spartans the last six times, the last five by double figures.

The mid-January game was expected to be different. South Knox was 16-3 and ranked seventh in Class 2A. Lincoln was 15-3 and honorable mention in 3A. But given their recent history, it wouldn't have been surprising if the Alices added to their streak.

What was stunning was that both teams singed the nets in a fastbreak bonanza, combining for 17 three-pointers and 25-of-31 free-throw shooting (81 percent). South Knox led 14-12 after the first quarter. Lincoln led at halftime 33-32 and the Spartans took the lead back after three quarters 51-50. The game had 13 lead changes, with neither team leading by more than seven points.

The Spartans played eight games in the middle of the season without double-figure scorer Hannah Ivers, who had suffered an ankle injury. The senior returned just in time for the Lincoln game and didn't need any time to get to game speed. Ivers scored 13 of her team's last 14 points and tallied a season-high 23 in the tight victory. Lexi Detweiler did it all with 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. Mykayla Couchenour followed with 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

The Alices had plenty of stars too. Darrian Carmean tallied 22 points. Maycee Lange had 20 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Dani Kroeger scored 15.

Both coaches, South Knox's Hollie Eaves and Lincoln's Travis Connor, were livid with their defenses after the game with both giving up what proved to be their season-highs. But for the fans who were at Alice Arena, they would be hard-pressed to remember a more entertaining game to watch.

2. South Knox 47, Linton 43 — The Spartans had been postseason darlings in years past, winning multiple sectionals after so-so regular seasons. They didn't start so-so this past season, going 6-1 heading into a home matchup with the Class 2A No. 3 Miners.

Linton had defeated South Knox in the previous two regular season games. The Spartans got them back in the sectional final a year ago, 47-36. The Miners wanted to pay them back, but it didn't happen in the Nov. 26 game.

Sophomore Macie Couchenour, not the noted scorer that sister Mykayla was, drilled five 3-pointers and scored 15 points, the last one breaking a tie with just over a minute remaining. Lexi Detweiler added 10, but it was the South Knox defense that was equally responsible for the win. Linton entered the game coming off of five consecutive wins by 20 points or more and not scoring less than 54.

The Miners forged ahead at halftime, 21-16, but the Spartans doubled their halftime total to build a 32-29 edge going into the fourth quarter.

Linton got the Spartans back in the sectional final, on its way to a dominant postseason run that led to its first state championship.

3. Lincoln 59, Evansville Memorial 54 — The Alices had fought injuries throughout the season and were missing two rotation players — Chloe Cardinal and Marissa Carmean — when they travelled to Evansville on Dec. 17 to take on the Class 3A fourth-ranked Tigers.

Lincoln was strong too, being a 3A honorable mention team almost throughout the season. It went into the Memorial game at 9-2, but had suffered double-figure losses to Evansville North and then 3A No. 1 Gibson Southern.

They were in trouble against the Tigers, losing 45-37 heading into the fourth quarter and falling behind by nine in the last stanza. But Lincoln was up to the challenge. Lange totaled 20 points and 13 rebounds and freshman Gracie Kramer added a season-high 14 points. It was Kroeger who supplied the clutch buckets, hitting all three of her 3-point attempts in the final quarter and finished with 17 points.

Kramer and Carmean each hit 2-of-2 free throws in the final minute, turning one-point leads to three. Lange did the same with less than a second remaining to cinch the win. Lincoln went 10-for-10 from the line in the second half.

4. Lawrenceville 42, Marshall 37 — The season-ending record was 17-13 and 5-3 in the Little Illini Conference, but the Indians were nearly unstoppable at the start of the season. They took a 9-1 record into a Dec. 12 home matchup with a Lions team that finished 20-10 and tied for second in the LIC at 6-2.

The Indians, who relied on their 3-point shooting, were in danger against Marshall. The Lions held Lawrenceville to four points in the third quarter and a 22-19 lead turned into a 33-26 deficit.

But Jayley Akers, the school's all-time second-leading scorer, produced nine of her game-high 21 points in the final quarter and the unheralded Indians' defense returned the favor by limiting Marshall to four fourth-quarter points in the comeback victory. Lawrenceville netted 10 free throws in the stanza, led by Akers' 5-of-6 firing.

Chaylee Shick added 10 points for the Indians.

5. Red Hill 42, Flora 41 — The Salukis have been the one team in the area that haven't enjoyed the riches of talent in recent years. Winning isn't as easy for Red Hill, so claiming a victory is probably more enjoyable for the Salukis than most.

Red Hill was the ninth and last seed in the Little Illini Conference tournament in Robinson, Ill. It was playing an Jan. 20 elimination game against sixth-seeded Flora, a team it lost to by 25 less than three weeks later.

Offense has held the Salukis back in several defeats, and it looked like it was going to happen again. Flora overcame a halftime deficit with a 17-point third quarter, taking a 32-26 lead into the fourth quarter. Red Hill averaged less than nine points in the first three quarters.

But the Salukis, who hit a sharp 6-of-11 from 3-point range for the game, poured in 16 fourth-quarter points in the come-from-behind win. Cat Bowersock, who advanced to the state finals in the 3-point contest the year before, hit 3-of-5 from the arc for a team-high 11 points. Emma Robinson had a season-high nine points, joining Maci Scherer at that total.

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