Creech’s 48 points lift Jenkins to region finals

March 4, 2016 FieldsColumn

Whitney Creech leads the cheers after Friday's semifinal victory.

Whitney Creech leads the cheers after Jenkins’ semifinal win over Powell County Friday night.

BY MIKE FIELDS

STANTON – Whitney Creech, whose prodigious scoring has raised the roofs of gyms throughout the mountains this basketball season, has lifted Jenkins’ girls into the 14th Region finals for the first time since 1997 and given them a shot at their first region title in 40 years.

Creech, a 5-foot-9 senior, poured in 48 points Friday night to lead Jenkins past host Powell County 67-58 in the region semifinals. The Cavaliers will play Leslie County Saturday night with a trip to the Houchens Industries/Sweet Sixteen on the line.

Leslie County beat Breathitt County 64-56 in the first semifinal Friday night.

Creech, who came into the game averaging 50.3 points, had 23 in the fourth quarter against Powell County, including 14 of 18 free throws.

“This is something every competitor dreams of,” Creech said.  “Survive and advance, and get a chance in the finals. If we can (win Saturday), it’ll be a big story. It’ll mean a lot to me, my team and everybody in Jenkins.”

Cavaliers Coach Ashley Addington said her seniors have been together seven years, hoping to make a run at a region title.

“I don’t think anybody believed we’d make it to this point, but I knew we had a special group. We’ve got six seniors, hometown girls who were born and bred there, and stayed there. They wanted to prove to everybody we could do it. We’ve got one more game, and we believe we can do it.”

Alexis Stambaugh had 14 points for Jenkins, which had to hold on in the closing minute when things got dicey after two starters fouled out.

Powell County pulled to within 62-58 with :24 left when it fouled Jenkins’ 4-foot-10 seventh-grader Ariana Bentley. Since the Leslie County defender grabbed Bentley’s jersey, an intentional foul was called.

Bentley hit the first of two free throws, making it 63-58, and the Cavaliers got the ball. Creech wound up making two more free throws, stretching the lead to 65-58 and all but icing the victory.

“She had ice water in her veins!” Creech said of Bentley’s clutch free throw.

“It was a real grind tonight. We were struggling offensively, and I didn’t shoot the ball very well (14 of 33). But we found a way to win, and that’s the important thing.”

Addington saluted WKU signee Creech, who’s closing in on 5,500 career points, for leading her team to within one win of the Sweet Sixteen.

“This young lady is something special,” she said.