December 9th, 2010

Valkyrie Defense Leads Charge In 64-43 Win

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Valkyrie Defense Leads Charge In 64-43 Win
photo by Chris Jung

Sacred Heart forces 24 turnovers in victory over Highlands

Sacred Heart Academy girls basketball Head Coach Donna Moir has many goals for her team every time they take the floor.

But two of the biggest benchmarks that Moir stresses during game preparation are total team defense and balanced scoring.

Thursday night, during SHA's 64-43 win over Fort Thomas Highlands, the Valkyries made their coach proud. With 28 points off 24 forced Bluebird turnovers, an intense display of defensive effort during three of the four quarters, and four members of the Sacred Heart squad scoring in double digits, SHA found a successful formula for victory.

Senior center Morgan Clemons had a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds), senior guard Maddie Peabody was 3-of-5 from the three-point line and had 15 points, and senior forward Monica McGreal led all scorers with 17 points. That trio helped SHA rush out to a 17-2 lead in the first quarter, which the Valkyries (2-0) managed to put together behind an aggressive backcourt press.

Highlands (2-1) didn't get on the board until Leah Schaefer's jumper with 2:47 to go in the first quarter, but that was immediately countered by a Sandy Gahafer bucket and then another basket from senior Annamarie Campbell following back-to-back turnovers by the Bluebirds. Campbell, who finished the game with 14 points and six rebounds, made the SHA lead 13-2. The Valkyries finished the period up 17-6.

Midway through the second quarter, Clemons scored her fifth point of the half, but was called for an intentional foul away from the ball during the Highlands throw in. The Bluebirds' Annie Glenn knocked down both free throws and started a sizeable Highlands rally. Glenn scored again minutes later to cut the SHA lead to 27-21, and a bucket by Allie Conner just before halftime made the score 29-25 at the break.

"I thought our defense broke down a little bit in the second quarter, " said Moir. "I knew (Highlands) could shoot and they started hitting a couple and got back in the game, but I thought our effort was just outstanding."

The hot-shooting Highlands team got the ball to its best shooter - Schaefer - to start the third quarter, and her left-handed jumper in the lane cut the one-time, 15-point lead for SHA all the way down to two. Needing a boost, Campbell and McGreal took over the game and reenergized their team with some quick points. The duo scored back-to-back baskets with five minutes to go in the period, to push the Valkyrie lead back to 35-29.

Just a couple minutes later, McGreal found herself open on a fastbreak runout off a Highlands turnover and converted the layup despite being fouled. She missed the free throw on the old-fashioned three-point play attempt, but Campbell was there to clean up the rebound and lay in the putback for a four-point SHA swing and 41-31 lead.

McGreal kept the deficit at ten (45-35) with a steal and a layup late toward the end of the third quarter and scored again moments later on a fastbreak to put her team up 47-35 with 1:20 to go in the quarter. Highlands' Conner did manage to bank in a running floater at the buzzer, making the score 47-39 heading into the final period of regulation.

SHA exerted its most intense defensive effort in the fourth quarter and seemed to wear down a tired Highlands team. Campbell scored to open the quarter and Gahafer's made basket and subsequent free throw after drawing a foul pushed the Valkyrie lead back to 13 points, as Moir and Co. took control 52-39. Peabody knocked down her third triple of the evening, McGreal matched her with a 3-pointer of her own (and then one last baseline jumper), and junior center Jazmin Smith preserved the 21-point win with a one-on-one defensive blocked shot with ten seconds remaining in the game.

"(The coaches) tell them it's defense first," said Moir. "They've got to play defense first and the offense will come after it. I love our effort, but we need to pick it up a little bit on the defense, and we need to finish. If we make our layups and our short shots, (the score's) not even close. I like this team and I think we're going to be a factor at the end of the year."

As a team, SHA shot 45.2 percent (28-of-62) from the field and outrebounded Highlands 37-35. Schaefer led Highlands in scoring with ten.

Highlands is coached by Jaime Walz Richey, who is the sister of University of Louisville women's basketball Head Coach Jeff Walz. Jaime's brother was in attendance for the game and said he was thrilled to have the chance to see his sibling work the sideline in person.

"I'm just here to support my sister who coaches Highlands," said Walz. "It's nice getting to watch her team play, and Donna (Moir) of course...I've known her a long time."

Walz, whose Lady Cards team is 6-3, said it was a pleasure to be at SHA.

"We try to get out and support all of our local schools," said Walz. "The facilities at (SHA) are wonderful and the overall play in our state is very good."

Sacred Heart has no time to rest following Thursday's win. The Valkyries turn around and play again on Friday against Waggener at home, and then travel to Lexington's Rupp Arena Sunday for the KBA Racing to the Rim Showcase - an event put on by former University of Kentucky star Jared Prickett. They play Anderson County at 2:30pm in the event.


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