LOUISVILLE — The effort was there, the intensity was up for the first round of the 5A state girls basketball tournament, but the opponent was just too much for the Monarch Coyotes.
The Coyotes knew Cherokee Trail was talented, and they got to see it firsthand. The Cougars started slow but once they got rolling they cruised to a 70-46 win over Monarch on Tuesday night.
It was a tough end to the season for the Coyotes (14-10), who lost their last six games. Monarch was seeded No. 31 but it was No. 34 Cherokee Trail that looked like the higher seed.
"It's ridiculous they're seeded No. 34. That team can beat anyone in our league," Coyotes head coach Gail Hook said. "That one, I can't figure that one out at all. That's an elite-eight team as far as I'm concerned."
The Cougars (12-12) played like they should have been placed higher. They played a smothering defense on Monarch and once they started hitting shots they were hard to stop. Makayla Hemingway had 18 of their 40 points in the first half and nearly matched the Coyotes' output of 21 points.
"(Hemingway), we knew she was going to be shooting threes all over and she knocked down quite a few," said senior Emerson Herrmann, who led Monarch with 20 points.
Hemingway finished with just 22 points but displayed the quickness and athleticism that Hook said was the difference. Early in the third quarter Hemingway stole the ball, dribbled down court and fed teammate Mia Collins with a behind-the-back pass for a layup and a 45-25 lead.
The Coyotes were able to hold her to four points in the second half but that's when Dominique Rodriguez took over. She scored 16 of her game-high 27 points after halftime, most coming in the third quarter when Cherokee Trail took a 58-28 lead.
Monarch didn't quit and gave the crowd something to cheer about by scoring the first 13 points of the fourth quarter to make it 58-41.
"At the end of the third quarter we realized we had to pick it up," Herrmann said. "It was our last game so might as well go all out. We got the shooters the ball well and put it in. That really helped us."
But a 30-point deficit was too big to overcome despite a strong start to the last quarter of their season.
"We played hard, we had longer stretches of good Monarch basketball," Hook said. "You can only ask your kids to give you their best and their heart and hustle and I thought we got that from our players. Unfortunately we played a more athletic, talented team than we are."
Cherokee Trail 70, Monarch 46
At Monarch HS
CHEROKEE TRAIL (12-12)
Rodriquez 9 7-8 27, Hemingway 8 2-4 22, Collins 2 0-0 5, Neyland 2 1-4 5, Leu Pierre 1 0-0 3, Thomas 1 1-1 3, Lee 0 2-2 2, Fason1 0-1 2, Pare 0 1-4 1. Totals 24 14-23 70.
Herrmann 6 7-11 20, Reading 2 5-8 11, Thrower 3 0-0 8, Trujillo 1 0-0 2, Butler 1 0-0 2, Russo 1 0-0 2, Kennie 0 1-2 1, Schmanski 0 1-3 1. Totals 14 14-24 46.
Score by quarters:Cherokee Trail 19 21 18 12 — 70
3-point field goals - Cherokee Trail (8): Hemingway 4, Rodriguez 2, Collins, Leu Pierre; Monarch (4): Thrower 2, Herrmann, Reading. Total Fouls - Cherokee Trail 24, Monarch 20. Fouled out - None.