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Holy Cross Beats Bell County, Advances to Elite 8

Holy Cross efficiently moved past Bell County in the first round of the KHSAA Girls Sweet 16 Tournament in Bowling Green, 51-33, on Wednesday night.

The Indians (31-3) used their size inside to make life difficult for Bell County in the first quarter. The Bobcats were only able to generate one field goal and one free throw in the first quarter, racking up a paltry three points in the quarter.

The Indians, though, did not experience a scoring bonanza themselves in the opening quarter. Aleah Tucker started things out the right way by sinking a corner three-pointer on Holy Cross' opening possession, and 9th Region Tournament MVP Deja Turner scored on two straight layups on the fast break after steals, but then the team went on a scoring drought as well. When 9th Region Player of the Year Ally Mayhaus knocked down a jumper from the free-throw line, Holy Cross had opened their lead to two possessions, up 9-3.

The second quarter saw Bell County find a little bit more shooting success to close the gap, though it didn't start that way. The Bobcats turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the quarter. With Turner scoring on layups but not able to make a jumper, the scoring brunt fell largely on the shoulders of Mayhaus who did nice work on the block to manufacture a game-high eight points by halftime.

That's when the Bobcats decided to make a game of it. First, it was Mandy Morris to score on a left-handed layup that broke a scoring drought of nearly eight minutes. Then, Jessica Sanders drilled a three from the top of the key that narrowed the score to 11-8. Sanders then scored again on a pull-up 18-foot jumper that got Bell County believing in themselves. Mayhaus put the stops to that momentum though with her eighth point of the half by scoring on the block and when she added another mid-range jumper, the Indians went up double digits, 23-13.

In the third quarter, Bell County star Mandy Morris began to heat up as she made six straight points for the Bobcats, but then she had to come out of the game briefly with three fouls. When she returned, though, Morris promptly hit two three-pointers including a 30-foot buzzer-beater to end the third quarter and cut the deficit to 36-30.

The fourth quarter, though, belonged completely to Holy Cross. The Indians looked to their seniors, Abby Mayhaus and Deja Turner, and both girls stepped up when their team needed them the most. Turner scored on the break thanks to a nice pass from point guard Dejah McClendon. Then, Turner scored two more baskets a short time later, again in transition and again from McClendon, to extend the lead for the Indians, 43-31.

Bell County's comeback attempt in the fourth quarter was limited to Mandy Moore shooting over and over again, mostly for misses. Moore finished with a team-high 17 points, but took 28 shots in the process. Just like the first quarter, the Bobcats were only able to score three points in the final quarter.

McClendon had another nice pass, this time to Tucker that really put the game out of reach at 48-31. Tucker followed up with another three inside the last two minutes and the game was decided.

Holy Cross will play Elizabethown in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

“Its a wonderful experience being able to win the first game and moving to the next round. It is really really exciting,” Abby Mayhause told KHSAA.com after the game. “We want to go all the way so hopefully we can get to the championship game.”

- Story by Bryan Burke, associate editor/Photo by Brian Frey, RCN photographer