Holmes defense hands Conner its worst loss of the season in 9th Region semifinal game
By Terry Boehmker
NKy Tribune sports reporter
The aggressive, in-your-face defense that’s become a staple of the Holmes girls’ basketball team was highly effective in the semifinals of the 9th Region tournament on Saturday at BB&T Arena. The Bulldogs allowed only one point in the first quarter to take an early lead and went on to defeat Conner, 64-32, to earn a spot in the regional final for the second consecutive year.
Conner players Taylor Gambrel, left, and Calee Duncan try to steal the ball from Holmes guard Jynea Harris during a 9th Region semifinal game. (Photo by Jackson Sports Photography)
Holmes (27-4) will play Ryle (24-6) in the championship game at 6 p.m. Sunday with the winner advancing to next week’s St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA “Sweet 16” state tournament that will also be played at BB&T Arena.
The Bulldogs have now held 14 opponents to 40 points or less this season, but it was a little surprising to see them do it against a Conner team that had won 22 games and was ranked among the top 10 in the Northern Kentucky coaches poll.
“We did a really good job of making them take hard shots,” said Holmes coach Tony Perkins. “They didn’t get any uncontested shots and that’s what we work on (in practice). It’s hard to hit shots with people in your face and that’s what we try to do.”
Conner wasn’t able to make a field goal until the 5:15 mark in the second quarter and ended up shooting 23 percent (9 of 39) from the field with 16 turnovers against the Bulldogs’ defense. The 32-point final margin made it the worst loss of the season for the Cougars and nearly doubled the team’s 17-point loss to Holmes during the regular season.
“You look at Holmes and everybody thinks they have ways (to handle them),” said Conner coach Aaron Stamm. “Then you get out there against them and see their athleticism, strength and quickness and you find out it’s easier said than done.”
After taking an 18-1 lead in the first quarter, the Bulldogs didn’t let up. They were ahead 39-12 at halftime and 59-21 going into the fourth quarter. They ended up shooting 62 percent (18 of 29) from the field with a 28-14 rebounding advantage.
Holmes senior guard Jynea Harris scored a game-high 23 points. Sophomore forward Tyrah Engelmon posted a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Holmes has not lost to a Northern Kentucky opponent this season, but one of its closest games was a 41-37 win over Ryle on Dec. 11. The Bulldogs had a hard time dealing with Ryle’s size advantage in that game.
“They’re a good team and we’re going to have to play well to win,” Perkins said of Ryle. “We’re strong, but we’re not very big. We make up for that with our quickness and our hustle.”
HOLMES (27-4): Harris 9 4 23, Graham 3 0 8, Englemon 3 8 15, Stovall 1 8 10, Brown 1 2 4, Johnson 1 2 4. Totals: 18 24 64.
CONNER (22-12): Hurst 2 0 6, Kennedy 0 1 1, Hendricks 1 0 2, Gambrel 1 5 8, Duncan 0 3 3, Boelter 2 0 5, Jordan 1 1 3, Mclemore 1 0 2, Frye 1 0 2. Totals: 9 10 32.
3-pointers: H — Graham 2, Harris, Englemon. C — Hurst 2, Gambrel, Boetter