It Will Be Holmes Vs. Holy Cross in 9th Region Girls Final
9TH REGION GIRLS BASKETBALL SEMIFINALS
Holy Cross 49, Highlands 32
Holy Cross out-muscled Highlands, 49-32, in the semifinals of the 9th Region Girls Basketball Tournament at the Bank of Kentucky Center on Saturday evening, to reach the championship game against Holmes on Sunday at 6 p.m.
“Every game in the 9th Region has been a war,” Holy Cross coach Kes Murphy said after the game. “Our kids have been in some battles and they've always found a way to win.”
In a competitive and defensive first half, both teams battled through their offensive sets by combating a mixture of good defense and lax ball-handling. It became apparent that points would be extra premium in such a contest and that opportunities like free-throws would likely become vital down the stretch.
Highlands took an early first-quarter lead, but they set the tone of things to come in that early going by committing turnovers, and missing a lot of shots against Holy Cross' 2-3 zone. The Indian front court of Abby Hassert and the Mayhaus sisters, Ally and Cassie, posed real problems for the Bluebirds to score inside. That left the perimeter shots which were tough on Highlands as well.
The Indians, though, also found the scoring tough as neither team was able to crack double digit points in the first quarter.
The second quarter was more defensive play as each team tightened up and prevented many points from accumulating. Holy Cross finished the half ahead 15-12 on the strength of Deja Turner and Aleah Tucker attacking the rim. Turner was the leading scorer at the break with seven points. Holy Cross managed 33-percent from the floor, but Highlands ended the half at only 28-percent. The teams combined for 18 turnovers before halftime as well.
After halftime, the Indians looked more into the post as the 9th Region Player of the Year Ally Mayhaus began to get busy down low. Her and Abby Hassert found interior points off of nice assists by point guard Dejah McClendon. The senior guard who has started since eighth-grade did a nice job down the stretch controlling the ball and finding open players for baskets in the second half.
“She makes us go, and we've have a lot of confidence in her for a long time,” Coach Murphy said about McClendon.
Highlands began to fall behind midway through the third quarter, beginning with back-to-back misses from behind the arc. When Mayhaus scored underneath on a putback and McClendon converted a runner in the paint, the Indians lead had surged to double-digits, 27-17. Highlands was only able to score five points in the third quarter.
By the last quarter, it was up to Holy Cross to take care of their lead and advance in the Regional tournament. To do that, they would obviously need to continue to play tough defense, but they also needed more points however they could get them. Hassert helped that situation with a nice basket in the post and Turner added two more by driving to the rim and being fouled. That ballooned the lead to 12 and the onus was on the Bluebirds to battle back.
That effort was hindered by their own undoing unfortunately for Highlands. The turnovers cropped up at the worst time for them as they first threw the ball into the stands on an errant pass, followed by a travel.
On the other end, Holy Cross guards found themselves at the line often. Tucker, Turner and McClendon each did a good job converting on free-throws down the stretch to keep the finish from being very close. In the second half, the Indians went 16-18 from the stripe and knocked out a very legitimate contender from the regional field in Highlands.
“We have a lot of experienced kids. We've experienced disappointment and we've got kids that want to continue to run," Coach Murphy said.
Holmes 48, New Cath 42
Holmes moved past Newport Central Catholic, 48-42, on Saturday night to advance to the 9th Region Girls Basketball finals where they will play Holy Cross Sunday night at 6 p.m. at the Bank of Kentucky Center.
The first half was a tale of two quarters, as New Cath came out more aggressive, thanks in part to Lora Zimmerman who had a steal which led to an easy basket, followed by three-pointer that put the Thoroughbreds up 11-4 midway through the first quarter. Holmes had two offensive foul calls in that stretch for pushing off which resulted in a pair of wasted possessions for the Bulldogs.
A hoop and the harm on Melissa Brown, though, followed by a three-pointer by Shania Parker, began the Bulldog comeback that carried into the second quarter.
Parker began the second quarter with another three which gave Holmes its first lead, 13-11. The Bulldogs also upped its defensive intensity and clogged the paint, forcing New Cath to score from the outside if they were to score at all. The Breds were able to muster only four points in the quarter as a result of the solid Holmes defense.
Offensively, the Bulldogs looked to push the pace more and increasingly found themselves on the free-throw line. Hannah Tubbs made a pair, and then Jynea Harris was able to score twice more from the line, which gave Holmes its first lead of the first lead of the game. At halftime, it was 16-15, and anyone's game still.
The second half became quicker paced and the physical play was bumped up a notch which the brought the referees more into the game. There were 45 combined personal foul calls in the game. Early in the third quarter, Holmes head coach Tony Perkins was called for a technical foul for asking for an intentional foul during a particularly rough play that caused guard Jaynice Stovall to fall hard to the floor. It was a curious technical call and was an example of how important the officiating became in the second half.
A key contributor for Coach Perkins was center Maurissa Brown who used her size down low to get multiple baskets while being fouled. After the tech, she scored on an easy lay up off an inbounds play and then had a put-back basket the next trip down the floor. Brown came off of the bench to lead her team with 13 points.
Guard Hannah Tubbs then heated up for Holmes and tossed in a quick seven points in a third-quarter stretch that put the Lady Bulldogs up 29-23. Tubbs had 10 second-half points and 12 for the game, including five important free-throws down the stretch.
New Cath was not down and out, though. Shortly into the fourth quarter, a pair of Meg Martin free-throws put the Thoroughbreds on top, 34-33. In response, Holmes went back to Brown underneath who reclaimed the lead for good with a basket down low.
Tyra Englemon followed up with a steal and a hoop, followed shortly thereafter by the same sequence, only this time by Jynea Harris, putting the Lady Bulldogs back up six with under two minutes to go. Brown had another basket with the foul which made it a three-possession game and enough to carry them back to a rematch of last year's 9th Region Finals against Holy Cross.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photos by Brian Frey, RCN photographer