January 28th, 2011

Clemons' 27 Points Leads SHA To Semis

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Clemons' 27 Points Leads SHA To Semis
photo by Chris Jung

Valkyries defeat Scott County 72-50 to advance in LIT 

Bellarmine University women's basketball Head Coach David Smith was on hand to watch the Louisville Invitational Tournament quarterfinal game between Sacred Heart Academy and Scott County on Friday evening, and he had to be pleased with what he saw.

Because on the court, putting together one of her most impressive performances of the season, was SHA senior and Lady Knights signee Morgan Clemons. And with her 27-point, 11-rebound double-double, Clemons led the Valkyries to a convincing 72-50 win over the Cardinals and into the LIT semifinals on Saturday morning.

"Most of the Bellarmine team (including Coach Smith) was here watching her play, so that was good," said Sacred Heart Head Coach Donna Moir. "Most of the time when you play in front of your college coach, you play terrible. So that was good to see her get a good game. She was real focused."

Clemons, who was 11-of-18 from the field, 5-of-5 from the free throw line and named the game's MVP, said the opportunity to play so well on her future floor was a neat moment.

"I'm excited for the next four years and to get to play four more years is just awesome," Clemons said. "And to get the feel of where I'm going to be the next four years is kind of cool too."

It did take some time for Clemons and Co. to get going, however, as Scott County raced out to a 6-0 lead to start the game and forced a sucker-punched Valkyrie team to take a quick timeout just over a minute into the game. The Cardinals' gameplan seemed clear: dictate a fast pace.

"That's what we had heard, that they were going to try and run us out of the gym," said Moir. "They started off 6-0 before we could blink and we quickly realized we couldn't press them, so we were just sprinting back on defense and tried to make them beat us in the half court."

SHA would quickly settle down shortly after and a 3-pointer by senior Monica McGreal gave Sacred Heart its first lead of the game, 8-6, with 3:46 to go in the first quarter.

Moments later, back-to-back 3-pointers by junior guard Jade Tubb gave SHA a 14-10 lead and helped the Valkyries keep pace with a Cardinal team that was determined to force the tempo and keep the game fast.

After a 16-16 tie at the end of the first quarter, McGreal exhibited her usual energy on the floor. And during SHA's opening possession of the second quarter, McGreal grabbed two of her game-high seven offensive rebounds, passed off the ball, and found herself open for a 3-pointer in the corner that put the Valkyries up 19-16.

Sacred Heart (16-3) would trail once more when Scott County's leading scorer Kristen Stainback made a layup to put the Cardinals up 20-19 with 6:44 to go before halftime, but McGreal's bucket 30 seconds later pushed the Valkyries back ahead and gave SHA a lead they wouldn't lose again.

Up nine points coming out of the break, Sacred Heart pushed the lead to 13 points when Clemons and McGreal traded baskets, and made the score 52-35 when Tubb found Clemons for another layup at the 1:12 mark.

SHA led by 20 points on several occasions in the fourth quarter and took its largest lead of the game, which was also the contest's final score, when freshman Raven Merriweather picked up an assist on junior Erica Walsh's short-ranged jumper with 48 seconds remaining in the game.

It was a well-balanced effort by Sacred Heart, which won its fifth straight game by defeating Scott County, but it was the aforementioned duo of Clemons and McGreal that led the charge for the Valkyries. McGreal also had a double-double in the game - 12 points and 10 rebounds - to go with four steals, three assists and two blocked shots.

"I took (McGreal) out the first time because I didn't think she brought any intensity right when we started, and I just got all over her," said Moir. "She's kind of the one that makes us go. Her and Annamarie (Campbell). Monica's points show up, but Annamarie Campbell is just kind of solid for us. Everybody just does what they can do and that's what makes our team really good."

Tubb was also a spark for Moir's team. The sharp-shooting guard finished with 12 points and hit nothing but net in four of the five shots she put up from long range during the game.

"She's a shooter and that's her role - shooting the ball," said Moir. "She also guarded Stainback really well."

That same Stainback did lead Scott County and all scorers with 21 points, including nine made free throws, but it was not enough over an overmatched Cardinals team that had previously won seven games in a row.

The aforementioned Campbell was indeed instrumental in the win, and despite only scoring two points, the senior forward contributed six rebounds, five blocked shots and four assists. Senior point guard Maddie Peabody had nine assists and six steals in 29 minutes of action.

Sacred Heart outrebounded Scott County 44-30 and had 26 points off 21 Cardinal turnovers.

"We're just starting to find ourselves and I think we're just starting to come together," said Moir. "I know we've got a big test ahead of us tomorrow (against) whoever wins this game (between Manual and Owensboro Catholic), but I think they're up for it."

With the win, Sacred Heart advances to the LIT semifinals against DuPont Manual on Saturday at 9am. The game will be played back at Bellarmine's Knights Hall, and should Sacred Heart defeat the Crimsons, they would play in the tournament championship at 8pm on Saturday night.


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