March 1st, 2011

Holy Cross Survives, Advances In Quarters

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Holy Cross Survives, Advances In Quarters
photo by Chris Jung

Morabito's late jumpers leads Cougars over Bullitt Central

Holy Cross High School girls basketball Head Coach Fred Copass has embraced the manner in which his young team wins games.

And at this point in the season, he'll take victories however he can get them.

On Tuesday evening, despite the fact that Bullitt Central outrebounded Holy Cross and knocked down eight more 3-pointers than Copass' squad, Holy Cross stubbornly pushed its way past a hot-shooting Bullitt Central team and picked up a 48-46 postseason win that gives HC a berth in the Class Act Sixth Region Tournament semifinals on Thursday.

"We find ways to win and I don't know how," said Copass. "We're not a real good scoring team, but we either play pretty good defense or hit a big bucket. Something to help us hang in there."

In this "Battle of the Cougars," it was Holy Cross Cougars' Sydney Morabito who made the game's biggest shots down the stretch, as the sophomore knocked down a pair of big-time jumpers that gave Holy Cross a 42-40 lead with 2:19 to go in the game, and another at the 1:32 mark to stretch the HC lead to 44-40.

Those buckets proved to be the winners, as the Cougars never surrendered the lead the rest of the way. Morabito finished with a game-high 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting and provided quiet, yet veteran-like leadership in just her second year with Holy Cross.

"(Morabito's) had some games where she's looked great," said Copass. "But we said tonight before the game, 'It's time for Sydney to have a big game,' and she stepped up and had a good one."

Bullitt Central did take possession of the ball with 18.3 seconds to go in the game, and only trailing 46-44, but committed a double dribble for a turnover and gave the ball back to Holy Cross. From there, freshman Josie Hockman made a free throw to push HC's lead to three points.

"That was a good win," said Copass. "(Bulltt Central's) a good little team and hard to beat. They're scrappy, shoot well, and don't give up."

Early in the game, Bullitt Central shot the lights out, knocking down seven 3-pointers in the first half, which helped them stake a 27-24 lead at halftime. Bullitt, which was playing the game without its leading scorer, Keoka Hilliard, got three of those first-half long balls from Kristen Collins, who went on to score 14 points in the game.

Hilliard, who was averaging nearly 14 points per game and leading the team in made three-point shots for Bullitt Central this season, hurt her ankle in a practice the day before the game, and did not play.

"Had she been in there, they might have hit 14 or 15 (3-pointers)," said Copass.

The Cougars tightened up its defense on Bullitt Central in the second half, allowing them to stick around and keep things close.

"In the second half, we played much better defense. Especially on the (three-point shot)," said Copass. "Also, last time we played them, they killed us on the press. But this time we only had ten turnovers. And ten turnovers against that little team is impressive. That was the key to the game."

After trailing for most of the third quarter, Holy Cross tied things up at 32-32 on a bucket by junior Maya Hardin with 3:33 to go in the period, but Bullitt Central reclaimed the lead before the end of the third after another 3-pointer by Kayla Riggs.

Bullitt Central's Valerie Terry tied the game at 40-40 on a pair of free throws with 2:29 remaining before Morabito took over.

Holy Cross junior guard Kim Mingus, who was playing through a slight ankle injury of her own, was the only other Cougar in double figures with ten points. She hit her team's only 3-pointer in the game and also contributed three steals and four rebounds in the victory. Junior Julie Skaggs was also instrumental in the win, as the the center put up game-highs in rebounds (8) and blocked shots (7), disrupting Bullitt Central's work inside.

Sophomore guard Morgan Wimberg played with a lot of intensity from the point guard position and finished with six points, six assists, five rebounds, and four steals.

In a game that never saw a team lead by more than six points during the 32-minute contest, Holy Cross only committed 12 turnovers - one less than Bullitt Central's Riggs had on her own.

Bullitt Central finished 9-of-23 from long range, including a toal of four treys by Collins, two by Riggs, and two by Ashleigh Pollard.

The win was Holy Cross' fourth straight and fifth in its past six games, and advances the Cougars to Thursday's tournament semifinals against Butler.

"I've watched them play a couple times and they're solid," said Copass of Butler. "They don't beat themselves. They've got ball handlers, they can shoot, and they know how to play basketball."

As far as the Cougars' chances, Copass says he is aware of the task at hand, but believes his team's chances are as good as anyone's.

"This is tournament time and you never know," said Copass. "We may come out like we did against PRP and everybody's hitting on eight cylidnders and all playing well. And that's what it's going to take to beat them. The girls have to come to play to even stay with them. It can happen. The odds are against us, but we have a chance."

Holy Cross (22-7) and Butler (25-4) will tip off at 6:30pm on Thursday at Bellarmine University's Knights Hall.


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