January 16th, 2011

SHA Wins Rivalry Game Over Assumption

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

SHA Wins Rivalry Game Over Assumption
photo by Brooke Ballard

McGreal's 22 points leads Valkyries to win over Assumption

Officially, it was an Assumption High School basketball home game.

But a raucous Sacred Heart Academy student section - decked out in neon apparel - rocked the Rockets gymnasium from start to finish on Sunday evening, helping lift the Valkyries to a 58-44 win in the annual rivalry game between SHA and AHS.

"I think that the crowd got us into the game," said Sacred Heart senior Monica McGreal. "But when we're on that court, we just keep our focus and play our game and don't let anyone that's yelling in the stands get to us. We've just got to focus on playing basketball."

And focus on basketball they did, especially McGreal. Her aggressive play down low afforded her 13, point-blank shots from the field and eight attempts from the free throw line. The combination led to a game-high 22 points for McGreal and gave SHA its first regular season victory over Assumption since the 2007-08 season.

It was a slow start for both teams, as the score was still tied at 3-3 with just over two minutes to go in the opening period.

But SHA created a bit of separation with 1.1 seconds to go before the end of the first quarter after senior Annamarie Campbell found fellow senior Morgan Clemons on the block with a sharp entry pass. Clemons' shot attempt was no good, but she drew a foul, knocked down a pair of free throws, and the Valkyries took an 11-8 lead into quarter No. 2

With Sacred Heart (13-3) leading 20-18 and shots not falling as easily as the Valkyries would have hoped, SHA senior Maddie Peabody grabbed an emphatic defensive rebound over a couple of bigger Rockets players, advanced the ball quickly to Clemons across the halfcourt line, and Clemons found a streaking McGreal with a 15-foot bounce pass that turned into a fastbreak layup and a turning point for a suddenly-energized Valkyries squad.

The sequence contributed to a key 9-3 run that allowed Sacred Heart to take a 29-21 lead into the halftime break.

Assumption junior Morgan Foley, who led the Rockets with 13 points and nine rebounds, kept AHS in the game in the third quarter. Her layup and a couple of converted free throws by sophomore Dee Dee Sliter cut the Valkyrie lead to 31-25 with 4:15 to go in the period.

But that's when junior guard Jade Tubb came up with the game's play of the night.

At the 3:26 mark, Tubb found herself with the ball and open real estate between herself and the basket. Instead of driving, however, the efficient three-point shooter Tubb wound up and released a high-arcing shot from long range. Not only did Tubb sink the shot, but she did so despite contact and a foul by Assumption's Brandy Hunter.

Tubb would miss the free throw and a shot at a rare four-point play, but the damage was done as a frenzied Sacred Heart bench and the aforementioned SHA student section helped the Valkyries find another gear and begin a stretch of play that would ultimately put the game away.

"That was huge" said Sacred Heart Head Coach Donna Moir referring to Tubb's 3-pointer and drawn foul. "We had a nice ball reversal and I kind of looked at (Tubb) like I thought she had the lane, but she's a good 3-point shooter for us, and I guess when I think opposite of her, it works. It went in and that kind of got us up a little bit because of the contact on the play. We knew it was going to be physical, but that was kind of like, 'hey....let's get going now'."

Less than 30 seconds later, a Tubb steal led to a Clemons layup, which was immediately followed by a Campbell steal and a McGreal putback layup. And when the smoke cleared, SHA owned a commanding 39-24 lead and took control of the up-tempo contest. The two steals contributed to 16 total picks for Sacred Heart and were the product of a pressure defense that saw increased intensity in the second half.

"I thought we could do that more in the first half, but we got in foul trouble and they were scoring at the (free throw) line, so it kind of took us out of some of the things we wanted to do," said Moir. "But we came out in the second half and started pressing them."

Campbell, who finished with two poitns, five rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots, and two steals in the game, made a layup with 18 seconds to in the third quarter to give Sacred Heart a 45-27 lead with just one quarter left to play. The Valkyries ended up outscoring Assumption 16-6 in the third.

In the final period, another set of steals allowed SHA to add to its lead, as Peabody intercepted an Assumption pass, drove coast-to-coast, laid in a basket and drew a foul, giving SHA a 47-27 lead.

But it was McGreal who gave the Valkyries its largest lead of the game (24 points) and a 52-28 advantage with 5:45 remaining, as the senior forward scored eight of her 22 points in the fourth quarter. She also had four rebounds and three steals in the victory.

"Monica's had a great year and it seems like how she goes, we go," said Moir. "I talked to her a little bit yesterday and today before the game about 'bringing it,' and she really has it. I guess it carries over from volleyball. She gave it all out where she was diving on the floor for loose balls. I thought she was key tonight."

McGreal credited the gritty play of her teammates with the win.

"I definitely think we came out hard and played with a lot of heart. We just really wanted this win," said McGreal. "We played them really hard, got on them with our press and it just paid off."

Sliter, Foley, and Maggie Hartlage made the score respectable down the stretch and cut the SHA lead to 56-43 with 1:32 to go, but that's as close as the Rockets would get the rest of the way. Sliter would finish with eight points and six rebounds. Other key contributors for Assumption were Katie Friedrich (12 rebounds), Kelsey Kaiser (six points and eight rebounds), and Hunter (seven points in 11-plus minutes of play).

For SHA, Clemons was one rebound away from another double-double. She finished with 12 points and nine boards. Peabody, who took several hard shots and falls during the game, displayed multiple examples of senior leadership from the point guard spot and finished with a consistent line of five points, five rebounds, five steals, and three assists. She also played the most minutes - 28 of the game's 32.

Assumption did outrebound Sacred Heart 46-30, but the Valkyries turned 24 Rocket turnovers into 22 points and had a 13:11 assist to turnover ratio. The Rockets were 22-of-32 from the free throw for the game. The 2010 Assumption High School volleyball state champions also received their state title rings at halftime.

Sacred Heart, which picked up its 13th win of the season on Sunday, has continued to look impressive during the current 2010-11 campaign, and has high hopes for the remainder of the season.

"I think the sky is the limit," said McGreal. "We have a lot of tough competition on the way, but our seniors give us a lot of experience and our bench gives us a lot of depth, and I honestly think if we just keep working hard, we can go anywhere we want to go."

Both teams will play games in next week's Louisville Invitational Tournament, but have tests in front of them this week first.

The Rockets will play back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, against Central (home) and Atherton (away) respectively. The Valkyries play in northern Kentucky against Newport Central Catholic on Thursday and then will take on Perry County Central on Saturday afternoon during Mercy Academy's Raatz Fence Classic.


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