In last month’s Louisville Invitational Tournament, Sacred Heart Academy basketball coach Donna Moir saw her Valkyries break down on defense against Butler. So the longtime coach spent a couple days breaking down some of the key plays for her team.
Eleven days later, Moir saw just how much her team learned.
Grace Berger scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out five assists to lead the host Valkyries, the No. 6 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, to a 58-49 victory over top-ranked Butler Wednesday night.
The win avenged an 81-63 Bearettes victory in the LIT semifinals on Jan. 28. In that game, Butler shot 61.5 percent and scored 52 points in the paint. On Wednesday, Sacred Heart (20-5) limited the Bearettes (25-2) to just 41.9 percent shooting and just 20 points in the paint.
“I thought we came out and played Sacred Heart defense tonight,” said Moir, noting her players hustling back on defense to limit the Bearettes’ transition opportunities.
But Sacred Heart didn’t just set the tone with defense. The Valkyries took the opening tip and, against the Butler zone defense, patiently waited for a shot to open. It took 46 seconds, but Berger found a hole in the zone and sank a jumper to give the Valkyries the early lead.
While Sacred Heart played under control, Butler coach Larry Just said his team, which entered Wednesday ranked No. 10 in the USA TODAY Girls’ Super 25, didn’t. In seeing their 25-game winning streak snapped, the Bearettes displayed little patience. As a result, they committed 18 turnovers and made just 2 of 14 3-point shots.
It wasn’t as if a slow-down game was a new concept for his team, Just said. He noted the game against Illinois’ Montini Catholic last month at Mercy Academy. In that game the Bearettes won 43-31.
“We knew what was coming,” he said. “We just didn’t execute some things very well.”
The Valkyries led for most the game. A three-point play by Jaelynn Penn put the Bearettes up 22-21 with 2:32 remaining in the first half, giving Butler its first lead. But Kiki Samsel responded with bucket nearly a minute later, and the Valkyries never trailed again.
Sacred Heart grew the lead throughout the second half, with a Samsel 3-pointer making it 54-42 with 2:02 remaining. Samsel finished with 12 points.
Berger said she and her teammates watched the film Moir presented and came out motivated to finish the rest of the season strong. Beating the state’s top team now gives them confidence with the playoffs looming in less than two weeks.
“I think it just proves to ourselves that we can hang with the best teams in the state and even the best teams in the nation,” Berger said.
Teri Goodlett led Butler with 13 points, nine of which came in the first quarter. Penn added 11 points and nine boards.
A key advantage for Butler in the LIT victory was the play of its post players. Molly Lockhart and Janna Lewis combined for 45 points on 19-of-21 shooting in the Jan. 28 victory. On Wednesday, the duo put up just eight shots and combined for only 12 points.
Moir credited freshman center Kristen Clemons for her work in denying the Bearettes veteran frontcourt players.
“She’s not afraid to get in there, body up on people and block shots,” Moir said about Clemons, who finished with eight points and three blocks. “She grew up a lot tonight.”
Butler gets six days off before entering the final week of the regular season with a home game against Jeffersontown next Tuesday. Sacred Heart still has five regular season games left, starting with a road game at Christian Academy on Friday.
SACRED HEART 58, BUTLER 49
Bre Torrens 6p 6a, Tasia Jeffries 5p, Kiara Cain 2p, Jaelynn Penn 11p 9r, Teri Goodlett 13p, Molly Lockhart 3p, Janna Lewis 9p 6r.
Sacred Heart (20-5)
Ashlee Harris 10p, Kiki Samsel 12p, Erin Toller 7p, Kia Sivils 4p, Kristen Clemons 8p 3b, Grace Berger 13p 13r 5a, Natalie Fichter 3p.