February 4th, 2021

Valkyries Fall Short to the Lady Chargers


Ed Peak

Staff Writer

Valkyries Fall Short to the Lady Chargers
photo by Ed Peak

 All good things come to an end. Such was No. 2 Sacred Heart Academy's nine game unbeaten streak. Bullitt East edged the host Valkyries 63-60, Wednesday night. 


Even though SHA took a late lead in the third quarter it seemed they never found an offensive rhythm. Shooting 37.9 percent from the floor included just five of 21 three point baskets.


"It was a great game, I can't fault that. Our effort was really good," said Valkyries coach Donna Moir. "We never really could get in the flow offensively with anything."


It seemed like a struggle most of the game for SHA. Bullitt East (5-0) led most of the first half and had its biggest lead 40-32 and 43-35 with four minutes in the third quarter. 


Sacred Heart went on a 11-0 run spurred by sophomore Triniti Ralston who had seven of her 14 points during the run giving the Valkyries a 47-43 lead after three quarters.


Junior Olivia Kaufman hit a long three point basket with 4:32 seemed to get SHA going. Freshman Angelina Pelayo came off the bench to score 12 points gave the Valkyries the lead with a jumper with 33 seconds and followed that with a layup with nine seconds in the quarter.


"Our team chemistry is amazing," said Kaufman. "This team really works together. It's very encouraging when things fall into place."

Bullitt East hadn't played a game since January 22 because of quarantine for the Coronavirus. The Lady Chargers went to their 6-foot-6 junior center, Gracie Merkle in the fourth quarter. 

Merkle scored six of her 19 points in the fourth quarter. Merkle who entered the game with the second best field goal percentage in the state (61.6) made eight of 10 shots. She had 16 rebounds and six blocked shots.


Bullitt East scored eight straight points to lead 51-47. Junior guard Emma Egan scored four of her 15 points while Merkle had two baskets. 


A Kaufman three with 4:18 tied the game 51-51 but a Merkle layup gave the lead to the Lady Chargers for good at 53-51 with 4:04. Egan's drives and penetration hurt Sacred Heart all night.


"Merkle is a very good player," said Kaufman. "I have a lot of respect for her. We were not able to get around her and block her out. She was so hard to move. If we'd have been able to rebound better we would have came out with a better ending." Bullitt East out rebounded SHA 32-28.


The Lady Chargers led 58-56 with 1:39 and 62-57 on two free throws with 41.1 seconds. A Kaufman three with 17.1 got SHA within 62-60. Lexi Starr, who finished with 14 points made one of two free throws for a three point cushion with 9.9 seconds.

Maggie Montano had an opportunity to tie the game with a long three pointer with 2.4 seconds but short missed and the ball went out of bounds.


It was senior night for Sacred Heart and Moir started her three seniors Montano, Danielle Schafer and Aubree Littlejohn, who has a torn ACL,. Littlejohn made one trip down the floor and scored a wide open layup. She left the game immediately.


"We struggled a little bit with their guards straight line drives," said Moir. "I thought we did a pretty job on the big girl (Merkle). I think there was a lot of focus obviously on her."


A key play in the game came with 3:11 left when Ralston fouled out. In addition the Valkyries were playing their second game without junior Josie Gilvin. In a game against Walton Verona, Saturday, January 30, Gilvin was ejected for blocking a shot on the last play of the game. The officials ruled Gilvin made a threatening play.


"She blocked a shot at the end of the game right at the buzzer and they (officals) determined it was intentional. The officials ejected her after the game had ended. You can't appeal an ejection. It's an automatic two game suspension," said Moir.


"It's a learning lesson. These kids are so young. At one time we had three freshman out there," said Moir.


Without playing a game in such a long time Bullitt East didn't have much rust. Coach Chris Stallings was happy with the victory the first at Sacred Heart in 10 years.


"It's not easy to win over here," said Stallings. "Our kids came in ready to play. We had a good practice yesterday and a good game plan. Our kids did a good job of staying focused."

What makes the victory more impressive is the way the Lady Chargers fell behind but rallied in the fourth quarter. "That four minute (stretch third quarter) we struggled there. I think the pace got into Sacred Heart's favor and I don't know if we executed real well."


Merkle was happy as well. "We came over here knowing it was a big game,"  said Merkle. "We had to stay together, play together is what we did. I incorporated what I did in practice into the game."


SHA (9-1) has little time to ponder the loss. It plays Friday at Christian Academy (8-2) and Cooper (8-2) Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Statewide Mortgage Valentine Shootout at Butler. 


"It was a great game, great atmosphere," said Moir. "It was our senior night made things a little different. We play back to back days because we might have to do that in the regional or state tournaments."


All good things end. But it wasn't all bad for Sacred Heart.


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