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Girls Sweet 16: Sacred Heart Academy narrowly defeats Marshall County to capture 2021 title

By Chad Hensley
NKyTribune sports reporter

For the fifth time in program history, the Sacred Heart Academy basketball team are the Queens of the Bluegrass after narrowly defeating Marshall County 49-47 in the Mingua Beef Jerky Girls Sweet Sixteen Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena on Saturday evening.

Controversy may surround the final moments of the title game with a non-call that left Lady Marshals head coach Aaron Beth heated, but too many costly turnovers including six in the fourth quarter proved to be the deciding factor in Sacred Heart cutting down the nets.

“You probably don’t want to hear my thoughts on the final play because it would be inappropriate,” Beth said. “There was a call that was changed, a jump ball that one of the officials had a foul and she said she had the foul before the jump ball and Cayson (Conner) gets knocked out of bounds and they land on her head the last play and (the refs) swallowed their whistle. So, yeah, that is very frustrating as a coach when the kids play that hard and do what they are supposed to do and just because it is 1.-whatever seconds left, they don’t make the call.”

(Image from Sacred Heart Academy)

“That is not what cost us the basketball game,” Beth said when asked about the final sequence. “But you asked the question, so I am frustrated about that.”

Sacred Heart (25-7) made it to the finals after defeating Anderson County in the semifinals earlier in the day to give head coach Donna Moir her 700th-career win at the helm of the Valkyries.

It would be victory number 701 that would prove to be much sweeter.

“701 for sure,” Moir exclaimed when asked which win was better. “I can’t say enough about these kids. I kind of laugh because I told them before we ever came down here that we were either going to lose first round or we were going to win it all because that is what happens. We either lose out in the first round or win the whole thing.”

Sacred Heart is now 10-0 in semifinals and finals appearance including state titles in 1976, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Marshall County (25-3) held a 47-44 lead with 2:57 remaining in the game after Halle Langhi made a pair of free throws, but the Lady Marshals would not score the rest of the game thanks to an outstanding defensive effort by the Valkyries that forced three huge turnovers.

Sacred Heart would tie the game after Triniti Ralston knocked down all three free throws after she was fouled in the act of shooting a 3-pointer with 2:33 to go.

The score would stay at 47-47 until Alexandra Wolff hit what would prove to be the state championship-winning basket off a rebound from a missed Ralston 3-point attempt with 55 seconds left.

The seesaw affair saw nine lead changes and 10 ties throughout the game with Sacred Heart doing just enough to get that final lead change.

“We talked about defense winning championships,” Moir said of her team’s defensive effort in the minute minutes of the game. “When we got the timeouts, we talked about getting stops. I mean that’s what we said: stops and rebounds, stops and rebounds. That is pretty tough to hold a team like that that shoots the ball as well as Marshall County. Hats off to these girls. They played fabulous.”

Offensively, the Valkyries were just 19-for-50 from the field for 38 percent so they needed the defensive effort to help keep Marshall County from shooting higher than what the Lady Marshals shot, which was 18-for-38 for 47.4 percent.

Sacred Heart forced 16 turnovers and converted them into 17 points. Marshall County had just eight points off 11 Sacred Heart turnovers.

Josie Gilvin may have only had four points in the title game, but her play throughout the first three games including 19 points in the semifinals was good enough to earn tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

Aside from just four points scored, Gilvin tallied eight rebounds, five assists, five blocks and five steals to help her team win the title.

Ralston led the Valkyries with 18 points while Wolff pumped in 10. Both Ralston and Wolff were also named to the 2021 Girls’ Sweet Sixteen All-Tournament Team.

Marshall County would land Langhi as well as Layne Pea and Cayson Conner on the All-Tournament Team.

Langhi finished with a game-high 19 points and was aided by Conner’s 16 points. Pea had one point in the finals but 13 points in the Lady Marshals 48-44 win over Henderson County in the semifinals.

“I just think that you can do it all,” Moir said when asked about what young women across the state can talk from her being a pioneer for the sport. “You can have a family, you can coach, you can have a career and you can be good at what you do, and you can be proud of it. I have had a lot of people reach out to me and say they’ve had families and they appreciate me. I love to see them succeed off the court. Women can do anything they want. I hope that I empower these girls and other women’s coaches to say, ‘Yeah you can do it.’”

The Valkyries did in fact do it. They won the state title cementing Moir as one of the best girls basketball coaches in Kentucky high school basketball history.

2021 Girls’ Sweet Sixteen All-Tournament Team

LynKaylah James, Bowling Green

Brooklynn Miles, Franklin County

Ella Thompson, Bethlehem

Aubrey Hill, Russell

Sophie Smith, Anderson County

Amiya Jenkins, Anderson County

Jarie Thomas, Henderson County

Sadie Wurth, Henderson County

Layne Pea, Marshall County

Cayson Conner, Marshall County

Halle Langhi, Marshall County

Triniti Ralston, Sacred Heart

Alexandra Wolff, Sacred Heart

Most Valuable Player – Josie Gilvin, Sacred Heart

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