March 3rd, 2011

Cougars' Valiant Effort Comes Up Short

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Cougars' Valiant Effort Comes Up Short
photo by Chris Jung

Holy Cross season ends to Butler in regional semis

When the final horn blew at Bellarmine University's Knights Hall on Thursday night, there were the obvious shades of disappointment painted across the faces of the Holy Cross High School girls basketball team - typical reactions that occur when the reality that your season is over sets in.

Unlike other teams, however, the Cougars didn't shed any tears, nor were any of the players heartbroken over the fact that their careers were over.

Instead, this senior-less Holy Cross team revelled in the fact that it had just pushed the state's No. 10 team to its limits and held Butler to its lowest and first sub-50 point total of the season in an eventual 45-35 loss to the Bearettes in the Class Act Sixth Region Tournament semifinals.

And more importantly, as quickly as its 22-8 campaign had ended, the Cougars immediately began thinking about the 2011-12 season - a year where every member of this Sixth Region semifinalist squad will be back.

"I (told them after the game), 'you all got something that nobody else in the region has (next year). You've got a chance to win the All "A" (Classic), and also to get to the Sweet 16'," said Holy Cross Head Coach Fred Copass. "And that's our goal for next year - to try and get to both of them."

Thursday night, against Butler, Holy Cross recovered from a forgettable first half in which it committed 17 turnovers, and answered the bell by only committing six second-half miscues and limiting a dangerous Bearette offense to minimal points.

"I'm proud of the girls," said Copass. "They beat Butler in the second half and didn't give up. They matched (Butler's) intensity in the second half, and that's what we wanted to do."

But for all of the accolades the Cougars earned in the last 16 minutes of the game, they cancelled them out in the first 16 by only mustering 13 field goal attemps and committing nearly 20 turnovers. Most of those were due to the physicality of Head Coach Larry Just's Butler team.

"They were a little more physical. They got the loose balls. In the second half we got our share, but in the first half they bullied us around," said Copass. "We talked to them at halftime and said let's go out there and give (Butler) what they're giving to you. And that's what they did, and we did a good job. We missed a bunch of free throws, but that didn't cost us. It was a combination of a little bit of everything."

After junior Kim Mingus' bucket with 22 seconds left in the first period cut the Butler lead to 14-10 at the end of one quarter, the Cougars quickly went south and were only able to come up with five points in the second quarter, allowing Butler to build an 11-point halftime lead.

In the second half, Mingus struck again with a 3-pointer to cut the Bearettes' lead to eight points at the 6:58 mark, giving hope to the youngsters from Holy Cross.

But that Cougar long ball was immediately answered by back-to-back treys from Butler's Aareon Smith and Megan Cureton, increasing the Bear lead to the largest of the game at 32-18 with 5:32 to go in the third.

Despite the blow, the Cougars stayed alive and jumped on the shoulders of an assertive junior Maya Hardin, who came alive to score 12 of her game-high 16 points in the second half, including a putback off her own miss with 1:08 to go in the third quarter, cutting Butler's lead back to nine points at 34-25.

"We have troubles scoring," said Copass. "But if we get the ball to Maya, and she can get it going, she's our main weapon on the inside. She can take it to the basket and score it when she puts her mind to it."

As hard as the Cougars tried, however, that's as close as they could get to Butler for the remainder of the game, as the Bearettes continued to wear down Holy Cross from baseline to baseline.

Holy Cross sophomore Sydney Morabito completed an old-fashioned three-point play to make the deficit nine points with 2:32 remaining, but it wasn't enough for the Cougars.

"(Butler was) more physical and we talked about that," said Copass. "They were more intense. They were stronger. They were quicker and went after the ball. And that's why they're No. 10 in the state. They have a nice little team."

Hardin was the lone Holy Cross player to finish in double figures. She also accummulated a game-high in rebounds with nine, including seven on the offensive end, and shot 6-of-12 from the field.

Mingus finished with nine points and six boards in the losing effort. Morabito had five points and converted her lone free throw attempt of the game.

Butler was paced by Cureton's team-high 11 points and seven rebounds. Heather Wheat also pitched in ten points and five rebounds in the win.

Holy Cross cut down on its turnovers in the second half, but did finish with 23 for the game. Butler turned those mistakes into 23 points.

"We've got a lot of offseason work to do," said Copass. "We've got to get in the weight room. We've got to shoot and develop some scorers over the Summertime."

The Cougars, a team that captured the All "A" Sixth Region Championship, won five of its final seven games before succumbing to Butler on Thursay.

Butler will take on Bullitt East on Saturday night for the Sixth Region Tournament Championship, with a spot in the girls Sweet 16 on the line.


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