Fresh off his 400th career win, McCracken County girls basketball head coach Scott Sivills quickly got No. 401 at home on Tuesday against district rival Paducah Tilghman. And he had freshman Claire Johnson largely to thank for it.
“I thought Claire Johnson stepped up and made some big-time plays for us,” Sivills said. “When you have a point guard like her running the show, it helps out a lot. She sets the tone for us.”
Johnson made a trio of 3-pointers on the night and finished with 22 points in the Lady Mustangs’ 69-44 win.
“This was my best game of the season so far. I was pretty proud of it. I felt good,” the freshman said afterwards. “Before the game when I was warming up, I was getting excited to play, and I just went out there and played.”
Johnson’s performance on Tuesday showed how much she has improved over the past year.
“She’s gone from 5-foot-1 to 5-foot-7 in one year’s time and has put on 20 pounds,” Sivills said. “She really works on her craft. The sky is the limit for her.”
Johnson credits last season for preparing her to play a major role as a freshman this year.
“Last year I got to play as an eighth-grader, and that helped me a lot,” she said. “It’s my time to shine this year. I get to start, and I’m really excited about it. And as the season goes on, I think I’m just going to keep getting better.”
Fellow freshman Mikee Buchanan finished second on the team in scoring with 14 points, while sophomore Caroline Sivills added 11 to go with six each from junior Shymiya Daye and freshman Grace Henderson and five from junior Haidyn Green.
“None of us were selfish. We all worked together throughout the whole game,” Johnson said. “We did what we needed to do, and we got the win.”
Caroline Sivills, the coach’s daughter, kickstarted a strong opening quarter for McCracken County with eight points in the period to send the Lady Mustangs into the second leading 20-6.
“She got some shots in her wheelhouse, and she made some really good plays to get us going offensively early,” Scott Sivills said of Caroline.
Tilghman senior Natalie Warren opened the second quarter with a 2-point shot, but McCracken answered with a 13-0 run to make the score 33-8 and essentially put the game out of reach.
The Lady Mustangs (2-2) led 36-17 at halftime and 55-32 at the end of the third quarter.
Paducah Tilghman (1-1) was led in scoring by sophomore Diamond Gray (15 points), junior Rosie Minter (9), sophomore Dasia Garland (6) and junior Jaaliyah Biggers (5).
Paducah Tilghman 6 11 15 12 — 44
McCracken County 20 16 19 14 — 69
Tilghman: Gray 15, Minter 9, Garland 6, Biggers 5, Wurth 3, Reed 2, Shumpert 2, Warren 2.
McCracken: Johnson 22, Buchanan 14, Sivills 11, Daye 6, Henderson 6, Green 5, Bufford 4, Redd 1.