LEXINGTON -- The Berea Community girls basketball team battled in the first quarter, but turnovers and tough defense by Paul Laurence Dunbar resulted in a 57-32 loss Monday in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament.
It was Berea's (17-14) first appearance in the region tournament since 2007.
The Lady Bulldogs (23-8) will face Franklin County in the semifinals at McBrayer Arena on Thursday.
Berea shot 32 percent (10-of-31) from the field for the game, 18 percent from three-point range and was 63 percent from the charity stripe.
The Lady Pirates also had 22 turnovers.
Dunbar shot 41 percent (19-of-46) from the field, 38 percent (6-of-16) from beyond the arc and was 81 percent (13-of-16) from the free throw line.
Berea Community coach Dammian Stepp said the Lady Pirates were not surprised by Dunbar's well-executed defensive plan, but just could not find a way around it.
"We knew we would have some difficulty with it," the coach explained. "(Turnovers) have been a bit of an Achille's heel for us against top-tier teams in the region this season. Over the course of the four quarters, they kind of wore on us, which is what good teams do. They also don't make a lot of mistakes. They are right there as far as one of the top teams in the region."
Stepp said he was proud of how the team continued to battle throughout the game and find ways to get to the basket.
Dunbar took an early lead in the first quarter after Elise Ellison-Coons went on a shooting spree.
The junior was responsible for all 12 of the Lady Bulldog's points in the first quarter.
After back-to-back threes and a hard fought layup from Ellison-Coons, Berea upped their defense but ended up fouling the junior who then knocked down all four of her free throw attempts at the line.
Maddy King got the Lady Pirates going with a jumper and Alexis Newman got a layup and the and-1 to keep Berea in the game.
Berea trailed by six points, 12-6, after the first quarter.
Dunbar kept pressing and led by double digits with two minutes left untill halftime, 17-7, however Berea used a 6-0 run to pull back within four points.
King sparked the run with a layup, Emily Maynard knocked down two free throws and King capped the run with a jumper to make it 17-13.
The Lady Bulldogs answered with a big three-pointer from Tanaya Cecil and a free throw from Quinn Arnold to extend their lead to 21-13 at halftime.
In the second half, Dunbar blew past the Lady Pirates after opening the third quarter on a 15-2 run.
Berea scored just five points in the third quarter as Dunbar expanded its lead to 39-18 going into the final quarter.
The Lady Pirates were able to cut the Lady Bulldogs lead back to 17 points after going on a 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter.
Newman drained a three-pointer and Madison Howell converted a three-point play to make it 41-24 with 6:43 left to play.
Once again, Dunbar used a run to halt the Lady Pirates momentum and rolled to the win.
Alexis Newman led the Lady Pirates with nine points. Madison Howell and Maddy King finished the game with six points each. Mackenzie Howell had four points and nine rebounds. Isis Rodgers had three points and three steals Chesney Lovins had two points and Emily Maynard and Natalee Clark chipped in a point each.
Ellison-Coons led the Lady Bulldogs with 22 points and Aziah Campbell had 17 points.
Stepp said he was proud of how his team faced down adversity this season after losing their starting point guard to injury and their leading scorer moved away.
"The good news is that we have a lot of these players coming back for the next two years. They earned some valuable experience this season," Stepp said. "We can take away some good things from this year."
There were a lot of things for Berea to be proud of.
The Lady Pirates earned a long-awaited return trip to the 11th Region Tournament with a 54-40 win over Model in the opening round of the 44th District Tournament last week in Richmond and were 3-2 in district play this season after defeating Model Laboratory twice and Madison Central once in the team's regular season matchup.
In January, Berea won a second-straight 11th Region All "A" Classic title and had two four-game winning streaks this season.
"We end this year with a winning season and we beat the teams we should've beat this year. We fell short against top-tier teams, but if you look at our schedule, it's obvious where the room for growth is. We also played games we've never played before this season against opponents like Clay County, Lafayette, Franklin County."
We learned a lot and we have some young players that are going to make gains and fill in the areas where we know we need to improve. It's a great positive for next season."