Despite being shorthanded, the Lady Indians edged past East Jessamine on Monday to earn their first win of the season -- and Brad Lovely's first victory as head coach.
Madison Central (1-2) was without three of its starters on Monday and relied on a lineup of mostly younger players to earn a 40-39 win over the Lady Jaguars (1-3).
The Lady Indians were without starting point guard Brianna Bierbaum (sprained knee ligament and ankle) Chloe Freeman (torn labrum) and Lexi Daniels (minor injury).
After sitting out the first two games of the season due to a torn labrum, senior Taleya Todd returned to the lineup against East Jessamine.
The Lady Indians played three seventh-graders in the victory who held their own as senior Jekauri McKeithen carried most of the scoring duties.
The senior forward led the Lady Indians in scoring and ended the game with a double-double (22 points 11 rebounds). She also contributed two assists, two blocks, two steals and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe on Monday.
"At one point, we had three seventh graders out there that had never played varsity minutes before tonight. I knew we would hit a bump, especially in the fourth quarter, but I wanted to give them a chance to learn. Injuries right now are hurting us, but in the long run, kids are getting experience. They played well. I'm very proud of how we did tonight," Lovely said.
It was a back-and-forth battle for much of the game with the Lady Indians defense keeping the Lady Jaguars away from the basket.
The Lady Indians outscored the Lady Jaguars in every quarter except the first (13-10).
"We've done a good job defensively the past few games. I was very happy with how the team played tonight. East Jessamine has some athletes and they pressured us and they handled that well --Those are seventh graders playing back line defense and keeping players out of the paint," Lovely said.
The game was tied at halftime 20-20 after freshman Eve Carter drove past defenders to get a last-second layup.
The fourth quarter was the difference maker as the Lady Indians got their offense going.
After the game was tied up again (28-28) at the end of the third quarter, the Lady Indians raced out in the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to push ahead 36-30.
McKeithen converted two at the free throw line to spark the run, Nataya Strader added a layup and McKeithen scored off a jumper and another two free throws to cap the run.
"Nataya locked down their best player in the third and fourth quarter. She did the best she could and played well. We were just trying to get the ball to Jekauri and the (younger) kids are trying to learn how to win," Lovely said. "With inexperience, I knew (East Jessamine) was going to come back on us."
The Lady Jaguars did answer Central's run and took a 39-38 lead with 56 seconds left in the game off a three from Aimee Hagins.
However, the Lady Indians kept their cool and were able to hang on for the win.
McKeithen was fouled and converted two free throws at the line to give the Lady Indians back the lead and seal the win.
The Lady Jaguars had the ball with 25.3 seconds left and Central held strong on defense to force a last-second, three-pointer that bounced off the backboard.
East Jessamine had 16 steals and forced Central into 21 turnovers.
However, the Lady Indians made up for that from the field and charity stripe. Central shot 35.7 percent from the field on Monday and 62.5 percent from the free throw line.
The Lady Indians had 12 assists on the night and out-rebounded East Jessamine 35-31.
Junior Raelynn Miller ended the game with four points and three rebounds. Todd added three assists and two points. Junior Gretchen Hammitt contributed six rebounds and four points. Freshman Eve Carter had a team-best five steals, three assists, four rebounds and two points. Seventh grader Brittany Campbell added two points and three rebounds, while fellow seventh grader Nataya Strader and Tiana Long contributed two points each.
The Lady Indians will take on Henry Clay next on Thursday in Lexington.