WEST FRANKFORT — Grace Lueke was in the spotlight Saturday afternoon as Hamilton County hammered their way to a 67-55 nonconference win over host West Frankfort.
Lueke, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, poured in 24 points to pace the Foxes' offense, and with it, surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her brilliant career. The game was momentarily stopped at the 0:26 mark of the third period as players, coaches, fans from both sides and officials applauded the milestone.
"This is a great accomplishment for Grace, but I think she cares more about winning ballgames," said Hamilton County head coach Clint Winemiller. "Grace has a great work ethic, doing a lot of extra shooting in the shed when nobody else is around. I hope that her hard work has rubbed off on some of the younger players."
Lueke said she is proud of joining the 1,000-point club.
"I play hard — buzzer to buzzer. I don't ever quit," the senior sharpshooter said when asked to describe herself as a player. "I've lost quite a bit of weight. Crossfit training has helped me tremendously. If we have a game, I get up at 6 a.m. and go work out before school, and if we don't have a game, I go work out after practice."
The Redbirds had upset on their mind early as they raced out to a 17-16 lead after one period with all five starters scoring. Madison Carpenter, Lexi McLaren and Chloe Peavey each collected two field goals.
In the second period, the Foxes got on a roll and showed why they are one of the premier teams in the entire region. With precision passing and transitional baskets, the visitors quickly erased the deficit and built a 14-point lead at the intermission at 39-25. The lead grew to 21 points through three periods at 59-38. West Frankfort refused to quit, demonstrating its never-say-die character and cut the gap to 10 before finally falling by 12.
Carpenter drained four shots from beyond the three-point arc and finished with a game-high 25 points.
"Maddy's a senior, and she's always been underrated," said Redbirds head coach Tracy Steed. "We knew she was capable of scoring (points from the perimeter). She shoots like that every day in practice. I'm happy that she was able to have a big game today."
Peavey tossed in 12 for the Redbirds while McLaren added 10. Karsyn Thrash had six.
Besides Lueke, the Foxes got double-digit efforts from Carson Belangee (13 points) and Kolby Brake (10), while Kaelee Karcher contributed eight.
With the win, Hamilton County improves to 23-5 on the season.
"Overall, today was a good win for us," Winemiller said. "It was a good bounceback after a tough loss Thursday night. This is a tough place to play. West Frankfort's record (8-20) doesn't indicate how talented they are. They have some nice pieces here. We battled and found ways to score."