Ballard 58, Sacred Heart 56 | Bruins keep building streak

Ballard extended its win streak to 13 games by once again winning on the road against a ranked opponent. This time the Bruins scored the final seven points in the last 96 seconds to knock off Sacred Heart 58-56 in girls’ high school basketball Thursday night.

Jovanna Layfield scored 19 points, including three in the decisive stretch, to lead the Bruins. She also set a key screen to free Andrea Patterson, whose drove the length of the court for a layup to give the Bruins, the No. 10 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, a 57-56 lead with 30 seconds left.

Sacred Heart had two opportunities after that to win or tie. The No. 4 Valkyries (11-4) committed the last of their 20 turnovers on the first attempt. Then, after Layfield made a free throw, Gretchen Samsel missed a three-point shot at the buzzer.

During this streak, the Bruins (15-1) have won 11 games on road or neutral courts. In addition to winning at Sacred Heart, they won at No. 3 Butler on Tuesday and at No. 8 Bullitt East last month.

In those three wins at ranked opponents, they won by a total of seven points.

“We’ve been in close games that could’ve gone either way,” Ballard coach Frank Wright said. “For some reason, the coin’s been flipping in our favor.”

In addition, Ballard has been without starting forward Kiana Richardson, who injured her left knee in practice Monday, for the last two games. She’s scheduled to get an MRI on the knee today. And Richardson’s replacement, Ebony Reed, missed Thursday night’s game due to an illness.

Despite being shorthanded, Ballard jumped out to an 8-2 lead, with Layfield — Ballard’s only true frontcourt player in the starting lineup — scoring all the points. Sacred Heart would recover and eventually took a 23-22 lead on an Ashley Johnson three-pointer with 2:54 left in the first half. But Ballard finished the half on a 9-2 run, capped by eighth-grader Briana Mishler’s half-court three-pointer at the buzzer.

The Bruins built their lead to 10 early in the third quarter, but Sacred Heart mounted another comeback. In the fourth quarter, the Valkyries applied full-court pressure to force five of the Bruins’ 18 turnovers, and when Vanessa Baisas hit a three-pointer, she gave Sacred Heart a five-point lead with 1:59 left.

Baisas then got a steal on Ballard’s inbounds pass, but she missed her quick shot. Ballard got the rebound and Layfield’s 15-footer set the stage for the Bruin comeback.

“We were just trying to go with the flow,” Sacred Heart coach Donna Moir said. “We felt like we were getting the momentum and had some opportunities to trap them and we had them where we wanted them. We got up five and took a shot on a possession I’d like to have back.”

Considering whom it has defeated and where it’s won, Ballard has made a strong case that it is one of the top teams in the state. But with the Sweet 16 still two months away, Wright has other things on his mind right now.

“The last laugh is the best laugh,” Wright said. “This is just the first one. The last laugh is the best laugh all the time. Because when you don’t get it, you go home crying, and that’s what we don’t want.”

Despite the turnovers, both teams shot well, with the Bruins making 56.1 percent of their shots and the Valkyries making 55.3 percent. Raven Merriweather led Sacred Heart with 20 points.

Ballard 16 15 12 15 – 58

Sacred Heart 13 12 15 16 – 56

Ballard (15-1) – Mishler 10, Ray 2, Matchen 12, Martin 4, Patterson 11, Layfield 19.

Sacred Heart (11-4) – Johnson 7, Baisas 3, Samsel 9, Merriweather 20, Colley 3, Rufin 14.

3-point goals – Mishler, Layfield, Johnson, Baisas, Samsel 3,Merriweather 2, Colley.

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