Johnson, Vinson Look to Lead Kentucky All-Star Roster Against Indiana’s Best

The 2021 Kentucky Boys’ All-Stars are on a mission to not allow their Indiana counterparts to get their 100th win in the series when the series picks back up tonight after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 series.

Indiana currently holds a record of 99-44 in the series including a sweep of both games in 2019.

Kentucky will be led by Mr. Basketball Ben Johnson out of Lexington Catholic and is coached by David Henley of Eastern High School and Scott Ruthsatz out of Covington Catholic High School.

The 12-player roster for the Kentucky All-Stars will see a tipoff for their game tonight in the Owensboro Sportscenter at 8 p.m. CDT and then at 7 p.m. CDT on Saturday at Southport High School in Indianapolis.

Below is a preview of the Kentucky All-Stars after concluding their respective careers for their high school teams:

Ben Johnson, Lexington Catholic, Mr. Basketball

Johnson is a Bellarmine University signee and had a stellar career at Lexington Catholic tying for fifth in the state with 27.3 points per game during his senior season as the Knights went 20-3 on the season.

Johnson is Lexington Catholic’s all-time leading scorer with 2,349 points and comes from a talented basketball family that saw his older brothers and father all play in college after standout careers at Lexington Catholic.

Johnson is the first Mr. Basketball to ever sign with Bellarmine University, which heads into its second season as a member of NCAA Division I in the 2021-2022 season.

Noah Dumas, McCracken County

Dumas has led his McCracken County High School to Rupp Arena in three of his first four seasons and will return for a second senior season after Senate Bill-128 was passed and approved by the McCracken County School Board.

Dumas led the Mustangs with 15.3 points per game in 2021 and an appearance in the state quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Highlands 63-53. McCracken County finished with a 23-7 record in 2021.

Jaquias Franklin, Elizabethtown

Franklin led the Panthers to a state runner-up finish after having led the team in scoring the first three games of the tournament with 25, 24 and 19 points, respectively.

Franklin has committed to Southwestern Illinois College, but has recently picked up an offer from Illinois-Chicago. Franklin is a 6-foot point guard that averaged 19.9 points and 5.1 rebounds during his senior campaign.

Jacobi Huddleston, Bowling Green

Huddleston is a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward that averaged 9.2 points and 6rebounds per contest in 2021 and helped the Purples to a 4th Region title victory over rival Greenwood and an appearance in the quarterfinals of the Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena.

Huddleston had a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double in Bowling Green’s 85-57 Sweet 1 victory over University Heights Academy.

DaShawn Jackson, Frederick Douglass

Jackson will further his academic and basketball career at Eastern Kentucky University for A.W. Hamilton’s Colonels.

Jackson helped the Broncos to a 19-2 record including a 17-game win streak by averaging over 21 points per game. Douglass’ season came to an abrupt end when Madison Central used a torrid regional tournament shooting performance to take down the Broncos 80-62.

Sekou Kalle, DeSales

Kalle poured in 900 points in his two seasons with the Colts including a 22-point, 15-rebound performance in a 67-63 victory in the 22nd District title game over Western High School.

Kalle averaged a double-double for his senior season including 19 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.

Mason Moore, Rowan County

Moore may be a University of Kentucky baseball signee, but he was also a standout on the hardwood for Rowan County Vikings. Moore totaled 2,830 points in his prep career that spanned three years at Rowan County and two at Paintsville.

Moore averaged 19.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest on the court during his senior season before leading the baseball team with a 7-1 record on the mound with a 1.78 ERA and a .410 batting average.

Ayden Mudd, St. Xavier

Mudd will join Johnson at Bellarmine University in the fall. A 6-foot-7, 210-pound small forward, Mudd led the Tigers to a 19-7 record and an appearance in the 7th Region tournament.

Mudd averaged 15 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest in the 17 games he played in this season.

Devin Perry, DeSales

Perry has committed to West Virginia State University after having led DeSales with 19.7 points per game in his only season with the Colts.

Perry’s 24 points and nine rebounds were nearly enough to lead the Colts past Bullitt East before eventually falling to the Chargers 62-58 in the semifinals of the 6th Region tournament.

Cameron Pope, Male

A Jacksonville State University signee, Pope is a 5-foot-11 guard that averaged 14.4 points in just nine games this season.

Pope had 16 points and eight rebounds in Male’s 7th Region semifinal loss to DuPont Manual by a 68-62 score in overtime.

Sam Vinson, Highlands

Vinson will be making the short trip from Fort Thomas to Highland Heights to continue his career at Northern Kentucky University in the fall after leading the Bluebirds to their first basketball state championship.

Vinson was named the 2021 Gatorade Player of the Year in Kentucky after closing out the 2021 season with 21 consecutive wins including a 79-60 victory over Elizabethtown in the Sweet 16 finals at Rupp Arena. Vinson culminated his career with a 20-point, 14-rebound performance in the state finals.

Vinson averaged 22.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as a senior and totaled 1,791 points at Highlands with 1,549 coming in his final two seasons. Vinson also scooped up 674 rebounds during his career.

Darius Washington, Fern Creek

Washington committed to the University of New Orleans on April 18 after leading Fern Creek to a 12-7 record in 2021.

Washington averaged over 11 points per game for the Tigers as a senior and 9.1 per game as a junior.

Kentucky Girls All-Stars Look to Take Down Hoosiers This Weekend

After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Kentucky-Indiana High School All-Star Classic will tipoff tonight at the Owensboro Sportscenter.

Kes Murphy, the head coach at Notre Dame Academy, will take the reigns of the Kentucky Girls’ All-Stars and will be assisted by legendary Danville head coach Judy Mason.

Indiana holds a 50-38 edge in the series and Murphy will look to close the gap despite not having a full roster as announced when the roster was put together.

Murphy will be without the services of Miss Basketball Brooklynn Miles, Tiarra East and Harley Paynter, who have already started summer classes and workouts with their respective university teams in preparation for the 2021-22 season.

Miles, a graduate of Franklin County High School, is attending the University of Tennessee while East (Butler High School) is a Temple signee and Paynter (Boyd County) is at Tennessee Tech.

Below will be the active roster for the Kentucky Girls’ All-Stars along with some information about the prep career for each athlete:

Lara Akers, Danville

Akers is a four-sport student-athlete starring not only in basketball but soccer, swimming and tennis as well. She recently won the 12th Region doubles tennis crown with her sister Jenna for the third time in as many chances (2018, 2019 and 2021).

Akers was first-team selection of the All-12th Region Girls Basketball Team after leading the Lady Ads to a 16-6 record in 2021. Akers averaged 13.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

Macey Blevins, Wayne County

An All-12th Region Girls Basketball Team Co-Player of the Year, Blevins finished a storied career at Wayne County with 2,636 points and will be taking her talents to Western Kentucky University this fall.

Blevins led the Lady Cardinals to a 19-4 record this season averaging team-highs in points (18.3) and rebounds (7.4). Blevins saw significant action for Wayne County as a seventh-grader before being a primary starter the next five seasons.

Amber Dunn, Apollo.

Dunn is no stranger to the Owensboro Sportscenter after leading the Apollo E-Gals to the 3rd Region crown with a 52-37 victory over Meade County in the storied arena on March 30.

Dunn finished her career at Apollo with 915 career points and 707 career rebounds and battled through a nagging ankle injury that plagued her senior season. She was only able to play in 14 games this season and averaged 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest.

Despite the limited action, she rose to the occasion in Apollo’s region title win by scoring 23 points and hauling in nine rebounds.

Aubrey Hill, Russell

Hill’s career with Russell High was riddled with knee injuries early on but was able to capitalize this season leading the Red Devils to a 16th Region championship victory over Boyd County by a 72-61 score.

Hill totaled 1,170 points and 728 rebounds during her career at Russell with 764 points and 419 rebounds coming in her final two seasons. She notched 22 points and nine rebounds in Russell’s 58-44 victory over Dixie Heights in the Girls Sweet 16.

Amelia Hodges, Bethlehem

A Lindsey Wilson College signee, Hodges helped lead the Banshees to back-to-back All A Classic championships and an appearance in the Girls Sweet 16 quarterfinals this season.

Hodges averaged 15.1 points and 3.3 rebound per game this season and amassed a total of 1,498 points and 310 rebounds during her time at the small school in Bardstown. Her 17-point, seven-rebound performance in the 5th Region title game helped lead Bethlehem past Central Hardin by a 67-39 tally.

Marie Kiefer, Bishop Brossart

A 6-for-3 center for the Lady Stangs, Kiefer averaged a double-double during her senior season with 19.6 points and 11 rebounds per contest. A Ball State signee, Kiefer led Brossart to a 10th Region championship by scoring 22 points and hauling in 12 rebounds in a 61-47 victory over Montgomery County for the team’s first region crown since 2001.

Kiefer led Brossart in scoring all four years of her career at the small school in Alexandria and poured in a whopping 1,768 points and gobbled up 1,058 rebounds.

Taylor Price, Central

Price is just the second girls basketball player in Central High School’s history to be named a Kentucky All-Star and led the Yellow Jackets to a 14-1 record in 2021.

Price averaged 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest during her senior season and nearly led Central to a 7th Region title, but a 54-51 setback to eventual state champion Sacred Heart in the region finals ended the team’s bid for an undefeated season.

Alexa Smiddy, Southwestern

Smiddy was named the All-12th Region Girls Basketball Team Co-Player of the Year alongside Blevins after leading Southwestern to a 20-4 record and a 12th Region championship in 2021.

Smiddy averaged 15 points per game in 2021 and totaled 1,491 points in six seasons on the varsity team. Smiddy is a Trevecca Nazarene signee and was a standout on the softball diamond as the Warriors’s catcher batting .411 during a senior campaign that ended with a region runner-up finish.

Ella Thompson, Bethlehem

Thompson has signed with the University of Tennessee at Martin Skyhawks to further her academic and basketball careers. Thompson nearly joined the 1,500-1,000 club for her career after totalling 1,540 points and 934 rebounds in her three seasons on the varsity roster at Bethlehem.

Thompson led the team in points (17.9) and rebounds (9.5) per game as a senior. Bethlehem was 82-15 during Thompson’s three-year tenure including back-to-back All A Classic titles in 2020 and 2021 as well as two 5th Region crowns in 2019 and 2021.

Dynastee White, Butler

A Georgetown College signee, White averaged 12.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game this season and was a First Team All-6th Region selection.

The Bearettes were 13-3 in 2021 including a 6th Region runner-up finish to Bullitt East.

2021 Mr. & Miss Kentucky Basketball Honorees Crowned

Article courtesy of KyForward

For the first time in the history of the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation Mr. and Miss Basketball Award, both honorees in a single season hail from the 11th Region.

Ben Johnson of Lexington Catholic High School was named Mr. Basketball and Brooklynn Miles of Franklin County High School was selected as Miss Basketball.

Photo credit to Alex Slitz (Lexington Herald Leader) and Jessica Moore (Franklin County HS).

Johnson, a Bellarmine University signee, is the first member of the storied basketball history at LexCath to win the award.

Johnson led LexCath to an 18-game win streak to begin this season and finished with a 20-3 record by totaling 627 points and 140 rebounds for averages of 27.3 ppg and 6.1 rpg.

“It couldn’t be any better,” Johnson said when asked about the award capping off the stellar career that he had at LexCath. “I’ve worked my whole life for this. Ever since I could walk, I had a ball in my hands. I had two older brothers that pushed me in the driveway. They always made me work hard so I had to earn everything here. I had great teams and great coaches that just kept pushing me and pushing me. I had a great foundation. Its indescribable. The best way I could end it.”

As a five-year member of the Knights basketball program, Johnson amassed 2,349 points and 529 rebounds.

“Just working every day, you know,” Johnson added about his work ethic on the court. “Grinding and grinding. I would go into the gym late at night, wake up early, conditioning and lifting. Doing all that has really helped me.”  

Johnson is the first Mr. Basketball winner to sign with Bellarmine and will look to help the Knights improve on their outstanding first season at the NCAA Division I level.

“I wanted to stay somewhere close to home,” Johnson said of his decision to attend Bellarmine. “Bellarmine is only an hour away from Lexington. I really liked the coaching staff, the players and their play style and I thought I could fit well in that program. I committed pretty early in my junior year and I’m really happy with it and couldn’t be more excited for my next four years.”

Miles is the second all-time leader in points and all-time leader in assists. She is the only player in school history to be selected as a McDonald’s All-American nominee and won the district most valuable player award three times.

Miles tallied over 2,200 points throughout a career at Franklin County that included being an integral part of back-to-back state runner-up finishes during her seventh and eighth-grade seasons and culminated with two more trips to the Sweet 16 to close out her time in a Flyers uniform.

“This award means so much to me,” stated Miles. “I just want all of the younger girls to look up to me and just be like, ‘I want to be great.’ I just want everyone to be great and work on whatever they need to work on. I just love my family, my support, my coaches and my teammates and the KHSAA for making all of this possible.”

Miles is the second Miss Basketball from Kentucky to have signed with the University of Tennessee after Lisa Harrison did so in 1989 after a standout career at Louisville Southern High School.

Harrison was also the national Gatorade High School Basketball Player of the Year winner in 1989 and eventually played professionally from 1996-2005 including a six-year career in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury.

The Mr. and Miss Basketball awards have gone to the same region on three previous occasions with the first being in 1986 when Rex Chapman of Apollo and Kris Miller of Owensboro Catholic from the 3rd Region took home the honors.

Carly Ormerod of Sacred Heart and Dominic Tilford of Jeffersontown out of the 7th Region were bestowed the honors in 2005.

The most recent occasion is also the only time that both awards went to student-athletes from the same school in the same season when Trevon Faulkner and Seygan Robins earned the award while attending Mercer County High School out of the 12th Region in 2018.

Both Miles and Johnson will also get the honor of wearing the #1 jersey when they suit up as members of the Kentucky All-Stars in the annual Kentucky/Indiana All-Star series this summer.

Moir Gets Career Win 700, Sacred Heart to Battle Marshall County for Title

Final Stats for Sacred Heart vs Anderson County

Final Stats for Marshall County vs Henderson County

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Revenge never tasted so sweet for the Sacred Heart basketball team as the Valkyries defeated Anderson County 63-53 in the semifinals of the Mingua Beef Jerky Girls Sweet Sixteen® Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena.

The win for Sacred Heart (24-7) not only meant a trip to tonight’s state finals, but it also earned head coach Donna Moir her 700th career win at the helm of the Valkyries,

Anderson County (28-3) defeated Sacred Heart 69-68 on Feb. 20, but the Lady Bearcats could not overcome a 3-for-11 shooting performance in the fourth quarter of today’s loss.

““Wow. I guess I have been doing it a long time,” Moir expressed during the postgame press conference when asked about reaching the 700-win plateau. “When we came up here Carly Ormerod came and talked to our team and talked about all the former players that have played in our program that are really pulling for us and this team. I have to think back to my first teams, and I probably didn’t know the heck what I was doing. I was a 25-year-old coach getting a varsity program like this. I’m just so proud of all the kids that have come through our program and to get this 700th win at Rupp Arena really means a lot. We want 701 for sure.”

Both teams scored the same amount in each of the first three quarters, but Sacred Heart used clutch free throw shooting to take the fourth quarter 23-13 for the 10-point victory.

“It was a tough game,” added Moir. “When we got down seven, we didn’t panic. Olivia Kaufman came in and did what she done in all practices and knocked down two big threes for us. We hit some great free throws. I think our team kind of took it a little personal that (Anderson County) didn’t think we were a very athletic team. We are ready to play tonight for sure.”

With Anderson County leading 38-32 late in the third quarter, super substitute Kaufman drained back-to-back 3-pointers to knot the score at 38-38.

Another key factor that began in the third quarter was Moir’s decision to put Trimiti Ralston on Anderson County’s Amiya Jenkins.

Jenkins was having an outstanding game until the defensive switch by Moir. Jenkins did finish with 24 points, but she only made one basket and four free throws the entire fourth quarter.

“We were trying to run them off the 3-point line a little bit and make them make tough shots,” stated Moir. “I think the change in the game was when we put Triniti on Jenkins. She did a great job shutting her down and got her frustrated and then we were able to make our run.”

Anderson County took a 45-42 lead with 6:55 left in the game, but Josie Gilvin answered with four consecutive points to give the Valkyries a lead they would not give up.

Gilvin was clutch when her team needed her the most scoring 10 of her team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and added 11 rebounds for a double-double.

Ralston added 13 of her own as Sacred Heart went 13-for-17 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter alone.

The Valkyries were 22-of-29 from the free throw line for the game.

Lady Marshalls Dominate Lady Colonels in Second Half, Advance to State Finals

Marshall County outscored Henderson County 22-9 in the fourth quarter on the way to a 50-33 victory for the program’s first state title game appearance since winning the 1982 title over Mercy Academy.

The head coach in that 48-44 victory in 1982 was Howard Beth, who is the father of current Marshall County head coach Aaron Beth.

The Lady Marshals (25-2) led just 28-24 at the half, but their stringent defense forced Henderson County (21-5) to shoot just 3-for-21 from the field in the second half.

Cayson Conner led Marshall County with 14 points and was closely followed by Layne Pea with 13 and Halle Langhi with 12.

Jarie Thomas led Henderson County with 11 points and hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds.

Marshall County and Sacred Heart will meet in tonight’s state championship game that is slated to begin at 8 p.m.

Pivotal Free Throw Shooting Catipults Marshall County to Semifinals, Sacred Heart, Anderson Co., Henderson Co. Also Advance

Final Stats for Sacred Heart vs Bowling Green

Final Stats for Anderson County vs Franklin County

Final Stats for Marshall County vs Bethlehem

Final Stats for Henderson County vs Russell

(Recap Courtesy KyForward.com)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Marshall County made all 10 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter to upset Bethlehem 58-51 in the quarterfinals of the Mingua Beef Jerky Girls’ Sweet 16® at Rupp Arena.

“Don’t miss,” Marshall County’s Halle Langhi summed up what was going through her head when she attempted each of her six fourth quarter free throws.

Langhi would finish the game with a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double performance that helped control a Bethlehem team that many had penciled into Saturday night’s championship game.

Marshall County (24-2) opened its season with a 67-60 loss at Bethlehem on Jan. 8 and head coach Aaron Beth knew that playing Bethlehem as well as the rugged schedule the Lady Marshals embarked on throughout the season would eventually pay off for his team.

“We have been in these situations where we’ve played tough games all year,” Beth stated after the game. “As a coach, you hear all the time that you need to play a tough schedule and it is going to pay off. I think this year we are a prime example of that. We have had to play a tough schedule all over the state with as far west as we are. Nobody would want to come down that far to play us and the local teams it was hard to find a schedule, so we went all over. We played at Southwestern. We played at Bethlehem. We went to Louisville and played Bardstown.”

The Lady Marshals were led throughout the game by the play of Cayson Conner on both sides of the ball.

Conner, a senior guard, averaged 13.5 points per game going into the quarterfinal contest, but finished with a game-high 24 points thanks to 5-for-13 shooting from the field including one 3-pointer and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.

“She steps up when she needs to,” Beth added about Conner. “Her biggest issue is her confidence in herself. I tell her every single day how good she is. She’s got the ability to take over a basketball game and run the team. That has been set as an example the last two games. The defensive effort when she came up with those two or three steals right there down the stretch was huge.”

Bethlehem (26-5) led for most of the first half and took a 28-26 lead into the locker room, but the Banshees were outscored 11-7 in the third quarter to trail 37-35 at the end of the period.

Bethlehem, however, was able to take a 3-point lead (47-44) as late as 2:05 remaining in the game, but the play of Langhi and Conner fueled Marshall County down the stretch.

The duo scored the final 14 points for Marshall County including eight straight from Conner to give the Lady Marshals a lead they would not relinquish.

Bethlehem, a small school in Bardstown with just 250 students, battled throughout the game, but just couldn’t get into the rhythm they were accustomed to playing.

Ella Thompson, a Miss Basketball candidate, was able to score 20 points and was aided by Amelia Hodges with 12. Thompson and Hodges combined to go 11-for-26 from the field, but the rest of the Banshees were just 7-of-29.

“Words can’t describe how much they mean to me,” said Bethlehem head coach Jason Clark about Thompson and Hodges. “They’ve won 90-some games in the three years that I have been blessed to coach them. Two Class A region championships. Three straight district championships. Two 5th Region championships in three years with a region final mixed in with that and now an Elite 8 performance coming from a school with only 250 kids shows how special these two are. I don’t know what college coaches look for, but these two can play. I know if I was a college coach, I’d take them.”

Marshall County moves on to the state semifinals where the Lady Marshals will take on Henderson County beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Lady Bearcats Ground Flyers, Anderson County Breezes Past Franklin County

Anderson County used a 19-0 second quarter and had little trouble with Franklin County’s defense en route to a 53-35 victory.

Anderson County (28-2) held Brooklynn Miles, a University of Tennessee signee and Miss Basketball candidate, to just one field goal and a total of three points.

Franklin County (18-5) had arguably its worst shooting performance of the season at the worst time going 12-for-46 for a 26.1 shooting percentage. The Lady Flyers were known for their pressure defense, but when the shots are not falling on offense, the transition into a pressure defense simply isn’t there.

“You’ve got to make shots to get into pressure,” Franklin County head coach Joey Thacker frustratingly said. “All those Dr. Naismiths sitting behind me tonight, I hope they realize that.”

Paige Serafini led Anderson County with 14 points off the bench.

Patience Laster also tallied 14 points for Franklin County with Shauvi Kennedy being the only other player in double figures with 10.

Valkyries Outlast Purples

Sacred Heart Academy used a 37-26 scoring margin in the second half to pull away from Bowling Green 66-54.

SHA (23-7) only placed one player in double figures, but Triniti Ralston’s 26 points were enough to fuel the Valkyries into putting more pressure defensively on Bowling Green.

The Purples (19-11) committed a whopping 29 turnovers and never seemed to get any kind of traction on offense.

SHA was able to convert those 29 turnovers by Bowling Green into 37 points.

Josie Gilvin may have only scored six points for SHA, but she turned in an outstanding all-around performance with 11 rebounds, seven steals, three assists and two blocks.

Ralston finished the day’s first game going 5-for-8 from the field and 16-for-20 from the free throw line.

Bowling Green’s Tanaya Bailey (15), Lynkaylah James (14) and Meadow Tisdale (11) combined for 40 points but only got 14 from the rest of the squad.

James added 14 rebounds for the Purples.

SHA will take on Anderson County in the 11 a.m. semifinal on Saturday in a rematch from earlier this season that saw the Lady Bearcats go on the road and take down the Valkyries 69-68 on Feb. 20.

Clutch Free Throws Send Henderson County to Semifinals

Henderson County went 17-for-21 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to hold off a pesky Russell squad 64-53 in the nightcap of the quarterfinals.

Henderson County (21-4) was 26-for-35 from the charity stripe for the game including 18-for-21 from Sadie Wurth.

Wurth, a senior guard, finished with game-high totals in points (27) and assists (6) for the Lady Colonels.

Russell (20-6) found itself in the hole early falling behind 22-7 at the end of the first quarter before inching back into the thick of things being down just 33-27 at the half.

The third quarter, however, would see Russell add only six points to the scoreboard and fell behind by as many as 15 midways through the fourth.

Kaeli Ross and Aubrey Hill did all they could to keep the Red Devils in the game going for 22 and 18 points, respectively.

Russell, Henderson Co., Marshall Co., Bethlehem Advance, Quarterfinals Now Set

Final Stats for Marshall County vs Pikeville

Final Stats for Bethlehem vs Bullitt East

Final Stats for Henderson County vs Apollo

Final Stats for Russell vs Dixie Heights

(Recap courtesy KyForward.com)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Russell used a stringent defense to hold Dixie Heights to its second-lowest point total of the season to advance to quarterfinals of the Mingua Beef Jerky Girls’ Sweet 16® by a final of 58-44.

Russell used an 8-for-12 shooting performance in the first quarter to race out to a 19-15 lead.

“I was really proud with how our girls shot in the first quarter,” stated Russell head coach Mandy Layne. “We were 8-for-12 in the first quarter and once again our defense ruled.”

The defense for the Red Devils (19-5) was outstanding for a second straight game against a team’s best players.

Russell defeated Boyd County 72-61 in the 16th Region finals after holding Miss Basketball candidate Harley Paynter to just 10 points.

The Red Devils held Dixie’s top three scorers (Madelyn Lawson, Sydney Lockard and Laci Reinhart) to a combined 18 points, which was considerably less than the 38.2 ppg the trio combined for going into the tournament.

Russell was led by Aubrey Hill’s 22-point, 9-rebound performance and was coupled with 18 points from freshman phenom Shaelyn Steele.

“Unbelievable,” said Layne when asked about Hill’s performance in Russell’s first win at state since a 54-53 win over Clay County in the 1976 tournament. “She dominated. She has become one of the best posts in the state. She had an incredible game.”

“The bigger the game, the bigger the stage, the better she is,” Layne added about Steele’s impressive outing. “We have been saying the last couple of years that she is the best point guard in the state, and I am so glad that everyone gets to see her tomorrow.”

Dixie (28-3) would find itself in a hole going into the fourth quarter that it simply could not come out of after scoring just 14 points in the second and third quarters combined.

“The game definitely didn’t end the way we wanted to,” reflected Dixie Heights head coach Joel Steczynski. “I am just really proud of our team and everything they’ve accomplished this season. I am proud of Sydney and Laci. They’ve basically resurrected a program that had been struggling before they came here. Russell played a heck of a game. Hill did everything she wanted to do and everything that we did not want her to do. We started out hot on offense and then we struggled. Russell played really good defense so hats off to them.”

Dixie was in the state tournament for the first time since 1992 and has not won a tournament game since its first trip in 1980.

The game was like watching one team scrimmage itself during the first quarter as both teams matched up really well against each other before Russell was able to impose its defensive game plan.

“They are very much like playing against ourselves,” added Steczynski when asked about preparing for Russell. “We knew that they have a strong point guard. We struggled a bit to protect the paint and that gave them a big advantage on offensive rebounding. We turned the ball over a little bit more than we wanted to in that first half. When you are playing from behind against teams like Russell, it makes it really, really difficult.”

Lawson tallied 11 points as did Reese Smith for the Colonels. Lockard was held to just four points while Reinhart tallied only three.

Russell moves into the final slot of the quarterfinals where the Red Devils will face off against Henderson County in an 8 p.m. contest Thursday.

Driver Drains Midcourt Shot, Fuels Marshall County Past Pikeville

Jada Driver took an outlet pass and launched a desperation shot from just beyond midcourt that went in to give Marshall County an 18-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Lady Marshals (23-2) would use the momentum from Driver’s shot to build as much as a 12-point lead on their way to a 56-52 over Pikeville (26-7).

The matchup of two schools from opposite ends of the state would end with Lady Panthers fans upset over the free throw shooting disparity. Marshall County ended the game shooting 20-for-34 from the charity stripe compared to Pikeville’s 5-for-8.

Pikeville was called for 23 fouls to just nine for Marshall County, but a good deal of those were late in the game when Pikeville was fouling to put the Lady Marshals at the line to try and extend the game.

Marshall County’s Cayson Conner led all scorers with 22 points on just 5-of-18 shooting, but she was 12-of-15 from the charity stripe. Driver ended with 12 points on three made 3-pointers and three free throw makes.

Trinity Rowe notched a team-high in points and assists for Pikeville. Rowe, a freshman already playing in her third Mingua Beef Jerky Girls Sweet 16, scored 18 points and dished out seven assists.

Kenzie Maynard also had a strong game for the Lady Panthers with 12 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and two assists.

Banshees Win Battle of State’s Top Teams

Bethlehem and Bullitt East were tabbed all season as being favorites to win the Mingua Beef Jerky Girls Sweet 16, but both were drawn into the same opening round game that saw Bethlehem advance 70-65.

Amelia Hodges’s jumper with 4:53 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Bethlehem a 55-54 lead that the Banshees would not relinquish down the stretch.

Bethlehem (26-4) would be led by Miss Basketball candidate Ella Thompson with 25 points and eight.

Gracie Merkle, a 6-foot-6 junior center, led the state in field goal percentage went 11-for-22 from the field and 5-for-5 from the charity stripe to lead all scorers with 27 points for Bullitt East (22-3).

Merkle completed an impressive double-double performance with 18 rebounds.

Bethlehem drained eight 3-pointers and was nearly perfect from the free throw line (16-for-17) en route to advancing to a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday with Marshall County.

Carlie Thurmond (18) and Emma Filiatreau (11) were the other double-figure scorers for Bethlehem while Emma Egan (12) and Selena Granado (10) did so for Bullit East.

Henderson County Never Trails, Cruises Past Apollo

Henderson County has been a dominant factor in the western portion of the state and used its previous big-game experience to soundly defeat Apollo 55-31.

The Lady Colonels (20-4) are in the Sweet 16 for the 17th time in program history including 14 of the last 17.

Shelbie Beatty’s layup with 4:07 left in the second quarter cut the deficit to just three at 20-17, but it would prove to be the closest the E-Gals (16-7) would get the rest of the game.

Henderson County proceeded to close out the first half on a 10-0 run.

The Lady Colonels shot 47.8 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle 30-18.

Apollo shot just 33.3 percent from the field but was led by Beatty’s 11 points.

Henderson County was led by Jarie Thomas and Sadie Wurth with 17 and 13 points, respectively.

Girls Sweet 16 Day 1 in the Books, Bowling Green Among Four to Advance to Quarterfinals

Final Stats for Bowling Green vs Bishop Brossart

Final Stats for Sacred Heart vs Knott County Central

Final Stats for Franklin County vs South Laurel

Final Stats for Anderson County vs Southwestern

(Recap Courtesy KyForward.com)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Bowling Green got a 15-point, 19-rebound performance from Lynkaylah James as the Purples defeated Bishop Brossart 50-48 in double overtime in the 2021 Mingua Beef Jerky Girls Sweet Sixteen® Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena.

Neither team played particularly well and combined for 42 turnovers and a 32.9 percent shooting performance, but it was the Purples that made the biggest plays late in the game.

Bishop Brossart (21-6) led for the majority of the fourth quarter, but Jordan Rowe’s made free throw put her team up 37-34 and would be the final points the Lady Stangs would score in the final 2:33 in regulation.

Bowling Green (19-10) got a free throw from James just seconds later and would tie it on Tanaya Bailey’s layup with 1:09 to go in the fourth and send the contest to overtime tied at 37-37.

The biggest play of the fourth quarter, however, could easily be considered when Brossart’s Marie Kiefer picked up her fifth foul with her team leading 35-30 with 5:33 left in the quarter.

Kiefer led the Lady Stangs in scoring heading into the contest with 19.6 points per contest but finished the game with just seven points on 3-for-13 shooting.

“We know how to win games and what we have to do to win games,” said Brossart head coach Kevin Bundy. “We play hard in practice every day so that we don’t look for any crutches if something doesn’t go our way. Nobody in the state wants to play without a player like Marie and we sure didn’t want to play without her, but that is the hand that we were dealt. Offensively, it affected us an awful lot because when you have a player of Marie’s caliber, you want to do your best to make sure you are running your offense through her. It is hard to duplicate some of the things Marie can do.”

Bowling Green won the battle of the boards by a 42-34 thanks in large part to James’ 19 rebounds.

“We have worked on that for quite some time,” Bowling Green head coach Calvin Head added about his team’s rebounding performance. “That was a point of interest on our scouting report and today, rebounding was a factor. (James and Meadow Tisdale) did a great job of keeping Keifer off the boards using their strength and athleticism. They went up and grabbed the ball with two hands like they’ve been taught, and they were very competitive on the boards. Lauren Macht and Kiefer did a good job of getting rebounds, but I thought (James and Tisdale) did a good job of neutralizing that.”

No rebound, however, was bigger than Jasiyah Franklin’s rebound off a missed 3-pointer with just four seconds left in the game.

“That is why we called the other timeout when we saw their setup,” Head added. “We talked in both of those timeouts ‘don’t let them get a three off and if they do it’s got to be highly contested’ and we did a good job. The rebound was probably more important putting a freshman in that situation when she hadn’t played all game, she came up with the biggest rebound of the game in my opinion.”

Tisdale added 14 points and four blocks for the Purples.

Macht led all scorers with 16 points for Brossart and was aided by Rosie Jump’s 15 points.

Kiefer narrowly missed a triple double as she collected 10 rebounds and nine blocks to go along with her seven points.

“Coach just got done saying in the locker room that it is going to sting a little bit,” stated Rowe of the loss and the experience of playing at Rupp Arena. “But I think that once that goes away, this will be a day that I will always remember playing here with my best friends. Win or lose, we got to step on that floor and that has been a dream of ours for so long and I am really proud of this team.”

Bowling Green advances on to a quarterfinal matchup with Sacred Heart at 11 a.m. on Thursday morning.

Valkyries Double-Up Lady Patriots

Sacred Heart (22-7) had little issue with handing Knott County Central in the first game of the tournament.

SHA briefly trailed 8-6 when Kelsey Noble drained a 3-pointer for the Lady Patriots, but Triniti Ralston answered just 21 seconds later with a three of her own for a lead the Valkyries would not relinquish the rest of the way en route to a 64-32 win.

Knott County Central (20-8) committed 26 turnovers that led to 30 Sacred Heart points.

Both teams combined for 42 turnovers as the nerves and jitters of playing on the Rupp Arena floor set in early.

Reagan Bender led all scorers with 21 points, but it was Josie Gilvin’s triple-double performance that showed just how dominant the Sacred Heart pressure defense was for the Lady Patriots to overcome.

Gilvin scored 13 points and had game-highs in rebounds (10) and steals (10).

Flyers Soar Past Cardinals in Overtime

Franklin County used 17 points, five assists, eight steals and two rebounds from Brooklynn Miles to overcome a terrible free throw shooting performance to advance past South Laurel 55-50.

Franklin County (17-5) trailed 50-45 with 59 seconds to go in regulation, but Miles scored the final five points of regulation to send it to overtime and then tallied three of the Lady Flyers’ five points in overtime for the win.

Miles, who is a Miss Basketball candidate and University of Tennessee signee, wasn’t the only Franklin County player with a huge performance as Patience Laster notched a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double performance.

South Laurel (21-10) saw Regan Jones collect a double-double of her own with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

South Laurel won the rebounding battle by a 40-34 count, but the Lady Cardinals committed an uncharacteristic 28 turnovers that were just too much to overcome.

Franklin County won despite shooting 17-for-35 from the charity stripe.

Bearcats Too Much for Warriors to Handle

Anderson County led for over 22 minutes of action as the Lady Bearcats lived up to the billing of one of the state’s best teams by defeating Southwestern 78-67.

Amiya Jenkins led the way for Anderson County with 24 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Anderson County (27-2) would have three other scorers with a high point total than Southwestern’s top performer.

Tiffani Riley scored 16 points and collected seven rebounds while Sophie Smith added 15 points along with Rachel Satterly’s 14 points.

Southwestern was led by the Smiddy sisters with 12 each.

Ayden Smiddy, Southwestern’s lone senior, scored all her points from long range while Alexa Smiddy notched a double-double performance with 10 rebounds to go along with her 12 points.

Anderson County will now meet up with Franklin County at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Bluebirds Soar to First State Title, Soundly Tame Panthers 79-60

FINAL STATS

Recap courtesy of KyForward.com

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sam Vinson’s double-double and William Herald’s torrid long-range shooting propelled Highlands to its first-ever KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 title with a 79-60 victory over Elizabethtown in Rupp Arena.

Photo courtesy Kayla VanHoose.

Vinson totaled 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field and 8-of-8 from the charity stripe while also hauling in a game-high 14 rebounds en route to winning Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament. The NKU signee added five assists, three blocks and one steal.

Herald was 5-for-12 from 3-point range including 4-of-7 in the second quarter. The sophomore guard finished the night with 17 points.

Highlands (30-4) defeated a pesky Ashland Blazer team just a few hours prior to the state finals and head coach Andy Listerman’s squad showed no signs of tired legs as they jumped out to a 14-4 lead with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

“We put in work all offseason and all summer long,” Vinson stated when asked about the grind the Bluebirds experienced winning four games in less than 60 hours. “That prepared us for this day, this whole tournament. I think we outworked everyone, and it showed this tournament.”

“I think I said in the pre-tournament press conference, ‘It’s like going to the moon,’” Listerman added about what he would tell his players to prepare them for a state title push, “You know you can work and work and do everything right and there’s so many things that are beyond your control to have the opportunity and so we just kind of kept our blinders on all week and we just played the team that was in front of us.

“We didn’t worry about the stage. We just went out and did our thing. I am so proud of these guys for the way that our seniors lead this team all year long. We stayed focused, we stayed simple and just made play after play after play. You know, I am so blessed to be in this spot growing up as a Kentucky kid and having played here. I told all these kids I played 39.3 seconds in the state tournament when I was a freshman and to be able to come back as a coach and have them have this unbelievable experience and to get to sit back and just watch it is absolutely amazing and humbling and I’m so blessed, and I couldn’t be more happy for this weekend.”

With Highlands up by 11 after a Zachary Barth 3-pointer with 2:41 left in the first quarter, Elizabethtown scored five points in 32 seconds to cut the deficit to six, but it would be as close as the Panthers would get the rest of the game.

The Bluebirds answered with a 13-3 run over the final seconds of the first quarter through the 4:31 mark of the second quarter.

Highlands forced Elizabethtown into seven turnovers in the first half and the Bluebirds were able to convert those turnovers into 13 points.

Highlands, which has won 23 state titles in football, executed its game plan to perfection from start to finish to eventually be able to earn its first basketball title.

“Highlands had an excellent game,” stated Elizabethtown head coach James Haire. “They were on fire. They did everything correctly. I can’t think of anything they did wrong.”

The Panthers, who made six 3-pointers in their semifinal win over a very talented Ballard team, were held to just three makes from long range in 16 attempts against Highlands.

To show how much Highlands dominated from start to finish, Elizabethtown led 2-0 for a mere 21 seconds while the Bluebirds would go on to lead for a whopping 29:45. There are just 32 minutes in a high school basketball game.

Camden Williams would lead the Panthers in scoring with 17 points. Alandre Murphy and Kam Sherrard added 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Highlands was able to hold Jaquais Franklin to just nine points. Franklin was Elizabethtown’s leading scorer going into the tournament averaging 20.4 points per contest.

The second half was all but a formality after the dominance that was on display by Highlands in the first half. Both teams scored 19 each in the third quarter before the Panthers would squeak out a 15-13 fourth quarter advantage.

Muller and Barth joined Vinson on the All-Tournament Team for Highlands. Muller chipped in 11 points and hauled in eight rebounds while Barth totaled 10 points.

Oliver Harris (10) was the fifth starter for Highlands to tally at least 10 points.

The loss in the state finals marked the end of a historic, yet unsettling run for the eight seniors on Elizabethtown’s roster. The Panthers football team played in and lost in the Class 3A finals at Kroger Field less than four months ago.

Regardless of not many people showing love to the Northern Kentucky area schools and some already having cast their ballot for Mr. Basketball in Kentucky, Vinson was able to lead his teammates to the promised land after having dredged through an extremely difficult 9th Region tournament for anyone to have gotten out of.

“Coach Horn is getting an awfully good one,” Listerman would say about Vinson during the postgame press conference. “I am going to be biased here. I think he is the best payer in the state. I think this week he got the opportunity to showcase it. He does it in so many ways. He does it in scoring, rebounding and assists. He is so humble about it. He is about his teammates and when they get rolling, he finds them.

“He did it for Luke (Muller) in a couple games this week. He did it for Will a couple times tonight. We are so proud of him and to get to see him stay home, we are awfully excited. I couldn’t be more happy for Sam. The Northern Kentucky community is going to get to watch him do his thing for four more years on an even bigger stage.”

Vinson may not win Mr. Basketball, but he and his teammates won the more important trophy and that will be all that matters to the Bluebirds.

2021 Boys’ Sweet Sixteen All-Tournament Team

Jerone Morton, George Rogers Clark
Jacobi Huddleston, Bowling Green
Luke Sheperson, Boyle County
Noah Dumas, McCracken County
Chaunte Marrero, Ballard
Maker Bar, Ballard
Cole Villers, Ashland Blazer
Colin Porter, Ashland Blazer
Alandre Murphy, Elizabethtown
Kam Sherrard, Elizabethtown
Jaquais Franklin, Elizabethtown
Zachary Barth, Highlands
Luke Muller, Highlands
Most Valuable Player – Sam Vinson, Highlands

Elizabethtown Blitzed Past Lou. Ballard 69-53, State Finals Await Panthers

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Elizabethtown dictated the pace easily defeating Louisville Ballard 69-53 in the KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 semifinals.

Elizabethtown (22-2) shot out to a 21-10 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to outstanding shooting from Camden Williams from beyond the arc. Williams was 3-for-5 from long range in the opening stanza for nine points.

Despite being clearly being the smaller team, Elizabethtown was able to overcome the size disadvantage and force their style of play on both ends of the court.

Ballard (21-3) committed five turnovers in the first quarter and an uncharacteristic 19 for the game including seven from Chaunte Marrero.

Elizabethtown’s pressure defense was able to hold Ballard’s Gabe Sisk to a season-low three points on 1-for-5 shooting. Sisk went into the Sweet 16 averaging a team-best 18.6 points per game.

The Panthers jumped out to a 30-13 lead at the 4:53 mark of the second quarter, but the Bruins finally woke from their hibernation to close out the half on a 15-5 run.

Any hopes of a comeback win for Ballard were ended quickly as Elizabethtown used a monstrous 14-0 run to start the second half thanks to the play of the Panthers on defense forcing the Bruins into five turnovers during the run.

Ballard didn’t score in the third quarter until D.J. Tilford knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:08 to go in the quarter.

Elizabethtown had its best shooting quarter in the third while Ballard easily had its worst. The Panthers were 7-for-11 for 63.6 percent from the field while the Bruins were just 3-for-8 for 37.5 percent.

The fourth quarter never saw Ballard get to within single digits as Elizabethtown coasted to the win despite being outrebounded 33-22.

Jaquais Franklin led all scorers with 19 points, tied for a team-high five rebounds and had a game-high six assists.

Alandre Murphy, Kam Sherrard and Khia Sherrard scored 13 points each while fellow start Williams closed out the scoring with 11 points.

Maker Bar led Ballard with a 14-point, 15-rebound double-double.

Marrero was the only other double-digits Bruins’ scorer with 13.

Elizabethtown advances to tonight’s state championship game where the Panthers will face the winner of Highlands and Ashland Blazer.

Poor Shooting Looms Large, Oldham County Eliminated by GRC

FINAL STATS

Postgame Press Conference

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Two single-point quarters coupled with just a 36.7 percent shooting performance saw Oldham County fall to George Rogers Clark 54-47 in the KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena.

GRC (20-4) jumped out to a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter despite shooting just 4-for-11 in the quarter but forced five turnovers by the Colonels.

Aden Slone paced the Cardinals with eight points in the opening stanza and would finish the game with 12 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Oldham County (14-5) was stifled by the interior defensive presence by GRC despite being the taller team.

GRC led by 11 on three different occasions in the second quarter, but Oldham County was able to put together a stretch that saw a 25-14 deficit cut down to 27-22 with 1:44 to go in the half.

Slone’s jumper with 30 seconds to go in the quarter and Jerone Morton’s dunk at the buzzer would put the Cardinals up 31-22 at the half.

Morton, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, keyed the offensive output for GRC by scoring 12 of the team’s 18 points in the second period.

Oldham County would see possibly its worst quarter of shooting all season at the worst possible time when the Colonels tallied a mere six points in the third quarter on 3-for-17 shooting (17.6 percent).

GRC, however, was not able to capitalize on the lackluster shooting from the Colonels and only increased its halftime lead by four at the end of the third, 41-28.

Oldham County was able to make things interesting in the fourth quarter by outrebounding GRC 11-7 and Samuel Campbell scoring nine of his team-high 16 points in the final period.

Jeremiah Mundy’s basket in the paint with 6:58 to go in the game increased GRC’s lead to 43-30, but the Cardinals would not score again until Stanley Smothers made a layup 2:38 later.

During that 2:38 of game clock, Oldham County was able to score just four points.

Too many wasted possessions that ended in either turnovers or missed shots almost seemed to draw all the energy out of the Colonels, yet they continued to have a chance due to Slone missing three consecutive front ends of a single-bonus free throw situation.

Campbell would make things interesting late with a pair of long-range shots to whittle the deficit to 51-47 with 0:35 to go in the game but could not make it any closer before the final horn sounded.

Jared Wellman pitched in 10 points for the Cardinals, who advance to Friday’s first quarterfinal game to take on Elizabethtown at 11 a.m.

Tyler Slone tallied 15 points and seven rebounds for Oldham County while Grant Gibson added 10.

Xander Wagner-Rose hauled in a game-time 11 rebounds for the Colonels.

GRC edged Oldham County 30-20 in the paint and 15-8 off turnovers.

If the Cardinals can get past Elizabethtown, they have to do a better job of crashing the boards after Oldham County won the rebounding battle 33-24.