Indians Advance to State Title Game: Holy Cross 47, Male 37
Holy Cross punched its ticket to the championship game of the KHSAA Girls Sweet 16 after keeping (Louisville) Male at bay in the semifinals, 47-37.
Like the other two games in the tournament, the Indians were led by senior Deja Turner with a game-high 20 points. Senior center Ally Mayhaus added 12 points and also had 13 rebounds and four blocks.
The Indians will play the winner of Mason County and Allen County-Scottsville on Sunday at 3 p.m. in the final.
Holy Cross for the second straight game controlled the pace by slowing things down on defense and preventing fast breaks. On offense, however, the Indians were not shy to start their own breaks off of misses. Twice, Turner scored lay ups on nice passes from Dejah McClendon, each showing terrific speed moving down the court with the ball.
To start, Emilia Sexton was the first player to get going as she scored her team's first seven points, including a long three-pointer and a nifty fade-away turnaround jumper in the post. Her spark allowed Male to take an early 7-4 lead which they would maintain for most of the half.
For Holy Cross, McClendon, who typically looks to dish to her teammates, became a scoring threat as she first split two defenders and scored by attacking the paint, and then later scored again on a high pick-and-roll that allowed the lane to open for her perfectly. That last basket was the closing of the first half and became the first Holy Cross lead since early in the game.
The teams went into the locker room with Holy Cross up 19-18.
It was a good thing that the Indians played such great defense against Male because they did not shoot the ball particularly well. The 9th Region Player of the Year, and Bellarmine commit, Ally Mayhaus created a presence underneath as she had two blocks and two baskets on putbacks in the first half.
Turner, who has become the Indians' clutch performer since the regular season ended, finished the half with five points.
The good defense continued into the third quarter as Abby Hassert poked the entry pass in the post away for a steal on Male's first possession.
Then Mayhaus scored on another putback, followed by a quick two from Turner which gave the Indians their largest lead to that point at 25-20 midway through the third quarter. The good times continued for the Indians with their stars Mayhaus and Turner finding second-half baskets. Turner finished with 15 second-half points.
The Indians also dominated the glass, out-rebounding Male and when Mayhaus scored a putback after getting blocked, Holy Cross found themselves up double-digits, 31-20.
In the fourth quarter, Male showed some fight and India Green became their offensive catalyst. Green scored off of a stolen pass and then made two free-throws after being aggressive going to the rim. That's when Mayhaus got tough again inside. First she blocked Green down low, then she went outside and blocked a three-pointer. Meanwhile, Turner continued to find ways to score in the second half as she hit a big three-pointer on the wing and then pushed the lead back to 11 once more with a free-throw.
Mayhaus and Turner combined to score the next four points for the Indians which put them in position to make their late free-throws and move on to the final.
Down the stretch, Male began to panic as they threw up hurried runners and missed easy shots. The hole they dug for themselves was too much against such a talented and disciplined team like the Indians. Male's misses coupled with made free-throws by Turner and Aleah Tucker gave HC a nice ten-point lead with a minute left.
Turner went 7-10 from the free-throw line on the game and her steadiness at the free-throw line solidified the Indians spot in the tournament's last game.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo: Holy Cross girls basketball team (by Brian Frey/RCN file)