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When you’re playing the defending state champs, perhaps self-motivation comes easy, but it also helps when your starting point guard has her best game of the season.
Both were the case Friday night as Nelson County held on at home to defeat Marion County, 73-62.
Freshman guard Shyla Calbert led her team with a game-high 21 points, while giving a stellar defensive effort to thrust her squad to a sixth straight win.
“I just wanted to beat them so bad,” Calbert said. “They are the defending girls champions, and we wanted to come out strong.”
Nelson County led 20-16 at the end of the first period, and went on a 10-4 run to start the second stanza, and led 30-20 by the 5:16 mark.
The Cardinals managed to maintain the momentum, but only led by a 37-31 margin at the half.
Senior forward Brianna Harman (12 points) sparked the Cardinals’ low-post play on defense with a key block midway through the third quarter, which led to a 9-0 run.
“I knew for us to win I would have to play in front of my opponent on defense,” Harman said. “I did get a huge block on (Alexis) Calhoun, but overall it was a team effort that got us the win.”
Nelson County (16-5) rallied late in the third and extended its advantage after a 17-2 spurt, with Calbert connecting on back-to-back jumpers in the lane.
The Cardinals led by as many as 19 in the final period, but Marion County (8-9) made one last run and cut the deficit to 11 with 3:14 left to play.
However, Nelson County held on as Caitlin Hagan hit a couple of key free throws with 56 seconds left to assure her team the victory.
The Cardinals put four players in double figures, led by Calbert’s 21. Hagan added 15, along with Harman’s 12. Forward Brooklyn Greer chipped in 10.
“We have had balanced scoring for most of the year,” Cardinals head coach Kelly Wood said. “When we do that, we are hard to beat. But tonight it was our defensive effort that gave us the win.”
Although Nelson County was limited in points off the bench, senior Kaylee Hall (five points) gave her club some quality minutes.
“I can’t say enough about all of our players, but Kaylee did a great job in there tonight,” Wood said. “She played really tough down low and provided a spark for us when she was in there.”
Nelson County hosts 14-6 North Hardin on Monday at 7:30 p.m., and the coach says that will be a tough assignment for his unit. The Trojans figure to be motivated after the Cardinals ended their season last year in the 5th Region tournament.
“We will have to be prepared for that game,” he said. “In this region anything can happen, and we must be ready to play against North Hardin.”