Simon Kenton girls face Owen County in 8th Region Quarterfinals at Gallatin County

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The 32nd District Tournament showed prime examples of the type of season the Simon Kenton Pioneers girls basketball has had.

The host Pioneers (16-14) played really well in the semifinals knocking off the rival Walton-Verona Bearcats, 66-47. They shot 40% from the field and made 10 three-point tries to go with a 71% clip from the free throw line, putting four players in double figures.

But the Pioneers came back three days later in the district championship game and shot 34% from the field, making just five three-pointers and two in double figures. Simon Kenton still had its chances in a 47-45 loss to the Grant County Braves (18-10).

“We got a lot of good looks in that game. Shots just didn’t fall,” said Brenden Stowers, Simon Kenton head coach. “I probably could have done better scouting. We could have made an extra shot or two, maybe used a timeout earlier in the game. There are a lot of factors that go into that.”

Simon Kenton hopes to see more games like the district semifinals if it is to advance in the Eighth Region Tournament. The Pioneers face the 31st District champion Owen County Rebels (20-10) in a rematch of the season-opener for both teams on Nov. 28. Simon Kenton owns big wins over the likes of Ryle, Spencer County, Montgomery County and Notre Dame this year. Notre Dame and Ryle are in the 9th Region semifinals on Friday.

“We’ve gotten so much better this season and I’m so proud of them for that,” Stowers said. “They come in and work every single day. They’re listening, growing and adapting to different styles teams throw at us. They’re taking them in stride and learning from them whether they win or lose. Owen County is really good team so we’re going to have our hands full. Both of us have done some growing. You go through adversity throughout the season and girls become closer. Just like any team, if you focus on the game plan and execute, you’re going to put yourself in a good position to advance. I truly believe in this bunch and I truly believe they’re starting to believe in themselves so that’s the biggest thing that I see that I like about this group.”

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The Pioneers have had their ups and downs with a young team. They have recently been starting one senior, three freshmen and an eighth grader in their leading scorer of point guard Brynli Pernell at 11.3 points per game. Pernell has made a team-high 49 three-pointers this year.

Simon Kenton won the regular season meeting against Owen County, 69-47 in Independence. Sophomore guard Rylie Flynn scored 25 points in that game for the Pioneers and freshman forward/guard Anna Kelch scored 17.

But the Rebels did not have their second-leading point scorer in that game in senior forward Gracie Ferguson. In 27 games, Ferguson averages 14.6 points per game. Their leading scorer is junior guard Haley Logan at 13.5 per game in 30 games.

Simon Kenton has had a number of players step forward this year. Senior forward Emilee Eggleston gives teams matchup problems with her versatility averaging 8.4 per game. Kelch averages 8.1 a game. Freshman forward Haylie Webb has given the Pioneers a post threat averaging 6.7 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game.

The Pioneers have seven players that have scored at least 111 points this year. Junior guard Ava Slusser and freshman forward/guard Megan Gadzala have both scored 111 points on the season.

The overall shooting stats are not bad for the Pioneers. But coaches generally want the free-throw percentages higher. They’ve outscored opponents, 1,556-1,443 making 523 of 1,567 three-point tries for 34 percent including 185 of 667 three-point attempts for 28 percent and 325 of 494 free throws for 66 percent go with 921 rebounds.

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Owen County has outscored opponents, 1,515-1,279 making 557 of 1211 shots for 46 percent including 125 of 391 three-point tries for 32 percent. The Rebels have made 276 of 445 free throws for 62 percent to go with 667 rebounds. Ferguson averages a team-high 6.5 rebounds.

The winner takes on either South Oldham or Spencer County on Friday at 6 p.m. back at Gallatin County. The championship game is Saturday at 7 p.m.

Simon Kenton has not won a region tournament since going to the 8th Region title game in 2019. The Pioneers last won the region tournament in 2018.

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