January 29th, 2011

Valkyries Drop 53-51 LIT Heartbreaker

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Valkyries Drop 53-51 LIT Heartbreaker
photo by Chris Jung

Manual eliminates SHA with basket in final seconds

It felt all too familiar for Sacred Heart Academy on Saturday morning in the Louisville Invitational Tournament semifinals.

Eeriely similar to the way the Valkyries battled and lost to Mercy Academy 53-51 on a last-second shot in the Republic Bank Classic semis on Dec. 22, SHA went down in the same fashion Saturday in the LIT semis.

This time, however, it was DuPont Manual's Leasia Wright who delivered the knockout punch and the Crimsons eliminated Sacred Heart from the Invitational by the exact same score: 53-51.

In a game that had the feel of a Sweet 16 showdown, SHA and Manual went toe-to-toe from wire-to-wire. Sacred Heart seniors Morgan Clemons and Monica McGreal, who both had huge tournament performances, combined for 31 points and 22 rebounds and had SHA ahead 49-48 with 1:39 to go in the game.

Ultimately though, the Valkyries could not overcome the combination of 29 team turnovers and game-high 20 points from Mechael Guess, and fell dramatically on Wright's runner in the lane after Annamarie Campbell tied the game at 51-51 with 52 seconds remaining.

"Defensively we were great, but they made the play at the end," said Moir. "It was a great game. Manual made a good play, but I'm proud of my team. A lot of that was attributed to Manual - they made us turn the ball over 29 times - but I don't think we saw our best today. But we played hard and got some things done."

SHA fell behind 14-9 in the first quarter on a three-point play by Manual's Nicole Lauterbach, which also resulted in the second personal foul for senior starter Campbell. She was replaced by Sandy Gahafer, who logged some key minutes in Campbell's absence.

In the second quarter, senior point guard Maddie Peabody converted her second old-fashioned three-point play of the game with 4:04 until halftime, cutting the Crimson lead to 23-18 after Manual pushed its lead to as large as eight points.

McGreal's 3-pointer got SHA within 27-25 with less than a minute until the half, which would eventually be the score at the break.

And after McGreal tied the game in the second half, Clemons gave the Valkyries just its second lead of the game by making a shot, drawing a foul and finishing the three-point play for a 30-29 Sacred Heart lead at the third quarter's 6:04 mark.

Manual, which was ranked No. 1 in the Courier-Journal Litkenhous Ratings coming into the game, quickly reclaimed its lead and ran its advantage up to 35-30. Peabody appeared to cut the deficit to 35-32 on a hard drive to the lane, but was called for an offensive foul. The Crimsons took advntage and completed its 9-0 run when Raven Hester made two free throws for Manual.

Sacred Heart freshman Raven Merriweather's strong drive to the basket and confident layup finally stopped the run with 2:18 to go until the fourth quarter, but Manual still led 39-32.

Sacred Heart went on a run of its own in the fourth quarter and found itself within just a point when Clemons' layup went down with 1:40 left in the game. Clemons, who was fouled on the play, missed the free throw but had the Valkyries down just 49-48.

Down 51-49 with under a minute to go, Campbell's baseline jumper tied the game at 51-all. But that gave the Crimsons a chance to get the ball into its halfcourt, call a timeout and set up the game-winning play.

SHA did not get off a final shot, as an attempted pass to the sideline sailed out of bounds, ending the game and eliminating the Valkyries from LIT play.

Peabody, who did have eight of SHA's aforementioned 29 turnovers, was the third Valkyrie in double-digit scoring with 11 points. She also had three assists. Peabody, Clemons and McGreal accounted for all but nine of Sacred Heart's points.

Guess, who led Manual with 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals, also scored the 1,000th point of her Manual career during the game.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for SHA. The victory was Manual's sixth consecutive "W" and set up a Republic Bank Classic championship rematch between the Crimsons and Mercy Academy on Saturday night.


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