February 24th, 2011

Valkyries Earn Sixth Straight District Crown

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Valkyries Earn Sixth Straight District Crown
photo by Chris Jung

Sacred Heart holds on late for 53-51 win over Ballard

Heading into the girls 27th District Tournament Championship, Sacred Heart Academy had defeated Ballard High School in five straight district title games dating back to the 2005-06 season.

The Valkyries made it six in a row on Thursday with a hard-fought 53-51 victory over the Bruins, but it wasn't easy.

After a 7-0 run to open the game's scoring and a seemingly comfortable 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, SHA staved off a 15-6 Ballard run over the game's final 5:52 and held on to earn the district championship.

"I think mentally, to go into the regional (tournament) with a win is important. You've got some momentum and confidence going in there," said SHA Head Coach Donna Moir. "Who knows who we'll draw? We obviously won't know until all the districts finish up, but I think it's important to get the district (tournament) win."

SHA, which squandered a 10-point late in its regular season home finale against Boone County eight days ago, seemed to be slipping into an unwelcome case of deja vu, but got a pair of clutch free throws from senior Maddie Peabody to put the Valkyries ahead 53-49 with nine seconds to go in the game.

Ballard's Ciera Woods laid in an irrelevant putback at the buzzer off a missed attempt by Javonna Layfield.

Peabody, who had another big night in the box score for SHA, was one of four players in double figures for her squad with a team-high 14 points. She also had a team-high seven rebounds, five steals, and four assists to lead Sacred Heart.

Besides her late conversions from the charity stripe, Peabody's biggest play of the night might have come with 1:39 to go in the third quarter. After Ballard cut the SHA lead to 36-31, avoided an over-and-back no-call at the halfcourt stripe, and seemed to be building up some confidence, Peabody aggressively ripped the ball from the grasp of Ballard guard Daryius Franklin, drove to the basket, and drew a foul while finishing her layup.

Peabody went on to finish the three-point play and pushed Sacred Heart's lead back to a nine-point cushion and abruptly took the wind out of Ballard's sails.

"Maddie will step up and make big plays, and that's what you expect your senior point guard to do," said Moir.

The three other Valkyries who were integral in the SHA offensive attack were seniors Morgan Clemons (13 points), Annamarie Campbell (11), and Monica McGreal (10). A fifth senior - Hannah Washle - had two points, and the five members of the Sacred Heart starting lineup accounted for 50 of its team's 53 total points.

The other three came on a 3-pointer by freshman Raven Merriweather with 51 seconds to go in the third quarter.

"I was proud of the kids (tonight). Ballard is a very talented team," said Moir. "(Ballard) can score at any time and we hung in there, made it a little closer than it should have been, but we pulled it out in the end."

Ballard, who had previously lost to Sacred Heart 57-45 back on Dec. 15, played much better than the 12-14 record they currently sport and gave Moir and Co. everything they could handle. The Bruins outrebounded SHA 39-31 in the game, with 19 of those coming from Woods and Layfield. That duo also combined for 26 points, including Layfield's game-high 18.

Bruins' starting point guard Porscha Saunders finished with nine points and five rebounds, but was not herself after a head-on-head collision with Washle at the top of the key toward the start of the third period.

Campbell, Clemons, and Peabody were also each named to the All-District Tournament Team following the final horn.

For Sacred Heart, the district championship win was the team's 7th out of its last 8 games,  third straight overall, and career No. 450 all-time for Moir.

The Valkyries' season will continue during next week's Seventh Region Tournament. The team's first-round opponent, and potential post-first round opponents, will be unveiled on Saturday as the pairings are blindly drawn at Holy Cross High School.

As far as who SHA plays, the Valkyries say they will prepare for anyone and anything.

"I don't care. It doesn't really matter," said a noncommittal Moir. "We're going to be ready to play whoever we play."


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