Holy Cross Shocks Top-Ranked Elizabethtown, Moves on to State Semis
Holy Cross toppled the top-ranked team in the state, Elizabethtown, 41-40, in the quarterfinals of the KHSAA Girls Sweet 16 in dramatic fashion as Deja Turner hit a go-ahead runner with two seconds left to move the Indians into the final four where they will play Male at 7:30 on Saturday night.
“That was a hard, tough game and coach said it was coming down to toughness,” Turner said to KHSAAtv.com after the game. “It feels great, but we're not done.”
Turner, who was the MVP of the Girls 9th Region Tournament, scored a game-high 23 points and was vital to her team's success throughout the day.
Holy Cross made it a priority to slow the pace down and run deliberate half court sets. The idea appeared to not only neutralize the speed and quickness of Elizabethtown, but also allow them to go inside the paint then kick the ball out to their shooters.
Turner continued her hot shooting hand in the postseason as she scored five points right out of the gates to give the Indians an early lead and boost of confidence that they can play with the state's number-one team. Junior point guard Dejah McClendon successfully played her role as facilitator as she regularly got into the paint and kicked it out to Turner and Aleah Tucker for threes.
Elizabethtown has stars on their team and they were eager to get them involved early. Erin Boley, who has committed to play for the University of Notre Dame next season, and Reauna Cleaver showed right away that they would be an inside force to be reckoned with, even with Holy Cross' good size underneath.
Cleaver was especially effective as she demonstrated different moves in the post for buckets. Her drop-stop from the baseline on Ally Mayhaus for a basket and the foul showed her length and athleticism, and gave the Lady Panthers the lead back. Cleaver had 10 points in the half.
Once Boley scored on a jump-stop bank shot in the lane, it gave Elizabethtown the lead. 18-17, going into halftime.
The second half was one of runs, where both teams found scoring sources in their go-to players. For HC, it was Turner who started the second half the way she ended it: with a runner inside. She kept it up with a steal and then a nice up-and-under on the end where she split her defenders. She scored the first six points of the half for her team and helped build their lead to 25-18.
For Elizabethtown, though, Erin Boley took charge and began attacking the rim, often being fouled in the process. First she knocked down a jumper for two and followed it up with two free-throws, but then her team suffered two traveling calls in a row and looked to be pressing some toward the end of the third quarter.
The Lady Panthers had dominated their opponents so thoroughly throughout the year that they looked almost unfamiliar with playing from behind. They missed a handful of easy shots in close that they typically made in order to get as far as they did, and their ball-handling became more sloppy as desperation set in.
When Turner scored again on a fast break off of a steal, the Indians had stacked their lead to 33-25 and looked like maybe they could control the game the rest of the way.
That was not the case.
Boley, who only had nine points on 12 shots beginning the third quarter, rallied her team by sinking free-throws and scoring on a turnaround fade-away in the post. Her teammate, Cleaver, had not scored in the second half after an impressive first half, but she snapped that streak when she was fouled and scored two at the line to cut the deficit to four.
The Indians then looked to be the team flustered by the pressure, and the momentum built quickly in the Lady Panthers' favor. Boley rode that wave to another pair at the free-throw line that cut it to two.
Boley and Turner then traded big baskets as both teams headed down the stretch and Boley once more found herself on the free-throw line. She made them both, but those points were moot again when McClendon scored on a runner with under two minutes left that put her team back up four points.
The Lady Panthers cut it back to two when Cleaver made another pair of free-throws. Holy Cross then tried to take as much time as they could on offense passing the ball around the parameter, but Turner was called for an offensive foul for raising her elbow to high to keep her defender from the ball.
Elizabethtown took back over with under 40 seconds left and Boley missed her game-tying attempt, but Cleaver was there for the putback and was fouled in the process. Her free-throw put the Lady Panther up a point, 40-39, with ten seconds left.
In those closing seconds, the Indians went with what worked all game, McClendon assisting to Turner who's runner rattled home after bouncing on the rim a few times and put Holy Cross up with two seconds left. Out of timeouts, Elizabethtown got the ball in but came nowhere near a decent shot attempt and the Indians advance to the final four of the KHSAA Sweet 16 Tournament where they will play Maleon Saturday at 7:30 EST.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo via KHSAA