Sacred Heart wins the 2021 KHSAA Girls Sweet Sixteen

By Clark Howell
For Bluegrass Basketball


Valkyries edge Marshall Co Marshall’s 49-47 for school’s 5th title.

Alexandra Wolff’s putback with 55 seconds left proved to be the difference in a battle of the two winningest schools in KHSAA history, but a no-call on a collision with less than a second left may be the most talked about moment of the tournament.  With 1.4 seconds left and down by two, Marshall County tried to inbound the ball to Cayson Conner and she appeared to be knocked to the ground, but no foul was called and the ball harmlessly fell out of bounds with 0.2 seconds left, not allowing the Marshall’s enough time to get a look to tie or win the game.

 

 

While Wolff’s bucket proved to be the game winner, it took a full team effort for the Valkyries to get to that point, and then to hold off the Marshalls.  Marshall County star Halle Langhi hit two free throws with just under three minutes left in the game to give the Marshalls a three-point lead, but that was the last time they would get the ball to the rim.  On the other end TrinitiRalston was fouled on a three and calmly sank all three free throws tie the game with 2:33 left in the game.  Tournament MVP Josie Gilvin, as she did all tournament long, made several key defensive plays down the stretch blocking two shots and forcing a turnover. Reagan Bender also had a key steal to deny another Marshall County scoring opportunity with 13 seconds left in the game.

 

Gilvin finished the game with only 4 points, but it was everything else she did that made the biggest impact, as she also finished with 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, and 5 steals. For the tournament Gilvin averaged 10.5 points, 10 rebounds, 7 steals 4 assists, and 1.75 blocks per game. While Gilvin did the dirty work, it was Triniti Ralston who put the points on the board, leading the state champions with 18 points while also adding four rebounds and four assists.  She finished with a four-game average of 15.75 points and 3.25 assists per game.  Alexandra Wolff was the only other Valkyrie in double figures finishing with 10 points.  All three individuals were honored as members of the All-Tournament team.  

 

With the win Sacred Heart, the second winningest program in KHSAA history, won their 5th state championship, and their first since winning three straight from 2002-2004.  The 5 titles tiethem with Laurel Co, Butler, and Ashland for the most of all time.  It was also a huge day for Coach Donna Moir as the semifinal win made her only the fourth in KHSAA girls basketball history with 700 wins, but she made it clear that number 701 was much sweeter.  Number 701 made her a state championship coach for the 4th time, matching Laurel Co’s Roy Bowling for the most all-time by any coach in the modern era. The Valkyries finish the season with a 25-7 record.

Marshall Co, the state’s all-time winningest program, fell just short of claiming their first state title since 1984.  They were ledHalle Langhi (19), and Cayson Conner (16) who provided most of the scoring punch for the game including all 22 of the Marshalls’ first half points.  Sophie Galloway added 6 points and 10 rebounds in their support.  Conner was the tournaments leading scorer averaging 19 points per game.  Conner and Langhi, along with Layne Pea made the all-tournament team for Marshall Co.

Aaron Beth fell just short of becoming the first child of a state championship coach to win a title of his own.  His dad Howard Beth led the Marshalls to state titles in 1982 and 1984.  The younger Beth was also a star on the Marshall County boys’ team that made the semifinals of the state tournament in 1989.  With the loss Marshall County finishes the season 25-3

Halle Langhi opened the scoring with a bucket inside to give Marshall County the early 2-0 lead, but the Valkyries countered with a bucket inside from Alexandra Wolff and three from Triniti Ralston which gave them a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the half.  A Reagan Bender fast break bucket pushed the lead to 10-5 which would be the largest of the half.  A layup by Cayson Conner and bucket in the paint by Langhi brought the Marshall’s within one, and they had a chance to take the lead late in the period, but a steal by Josie Gilvin led to 2 free throws and a 12 to 9 Sacred Heart lead after the first quarter.  The do it all Gilvin had 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals in the first frame, while Marshall County failed to capitalize on chances, hitting only 1 of 5 first quarter free throws.

 

The second period was a back-and-forth affair.  Wolff opened the half with a bucket to help match the largest Valkyrie 1st half lead at 5.  A Langhi bucket and Conner three-point play tied the game, but Wolff immediately responded with a bucket.  Thisestablished a second quarter trend that every time Marshall County evened the score, Sacred Heart immediately respondedto retake the lead. In total there were 4 ties in the quarter, but a late three by Ralston gave Sacred Heart a 26 to 22 lead going into halftime.  

 

Marshall County came out fired up to start the second half with Driver dropping in 2 quick baskets before a Langhi layup gave the Marshall’s their first lead since 2 to 0.  A Conner basket extended the Marshalls’ lead to four before Ralston finely stopped the run.  3 more points from Langhi gave Marshall Co their biggest lead at 33-28, but just that quickly Sacred Heart bounced back with 7 straight points on a Ralston 3 and baskets inside by Bender and Pelayo.  Marshall County went on the final run of the quarter scoring the final four points to take a 37-35 lead into the final frame.

 

While neither team shot well for the game, Marshall Co connected on a serviceable 18-38 from the field, but was hurt by a poor 1-8 showing from three-point range, as well as hitting only 10-17 free throws.  While Sacred Heart was a paltry 19-50, they were more successful hitting 5-15 3’s and an efficient 6-8 from the line.  Both teams grabbed 29 rebounds.

 

Sacred Heart will be an early favorite to defend their crown as the state champions next year as they return almost their entire roster including starters Gilvin, Ralston, Bender, and Wolff.

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