BOWLING GREEN, Ky.
Ruffin, Merriweather put Valkyries back on map
The high school careers of DaiJia Ruffin and Raven Merriweather came to an end Thursday night, but not before they returned the Sacred Heart basketball program to prominence.
Ruffin had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Merriweather 16 points as the Valkyries fell to Elizabethtown 76-61 in the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Sweet 16 at E.A. Diddle Arena.
It was Sacred Heart’s first trip to the Sweet 16 since winning three straight championships from 2002-04, and coach Donna Moir credited Ruffin and Merriweather for much of the success.
“The best thing about DaiJia and Raven is that they’re both great people,” Moir said. “They can make you laugh, have great personalities. We know that basketball is just a part of them. … I’ll really miss them. We had a really good player-coach relationship.”
The two became teammates during their sophomore year after Ruffin transferred from Butler, and they quickly formed one of the state’s top scoring duos. They would have been the Valkyries’ top two scorers the past three season had Merriweather not suffered a knee injury during her junior year.
Ruffin, who has signed with Tennessee-Martin, averaged 18 points and 9.5 rebounds this season and is a finalist for Miss Basketball. Merriweather, a Bellarmine signee, averaged 16.6 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Merriweather said playing in the Sweet 16 for the first time was “a great experience.”
“This is probably one of the hardest-working teams I’ve ever been on,” she said. “I’m glad I met this team and we made it this far because some people thought we weren’t going to get out of the Seventh Region.”
Moir said she’s looking forward to watching the two play in college.
“I’ll be the most proud person watching them the next four years,” she said. “These coaches that are getting them are getting good people who will work hard and do whatever they have to do for the team.”
Marshall County’s Simmons shows true colors
Marshall County’s players probably had no trouble locating their coach on the sideline during Thursday’s 54-38 victory over Perry County Central.
Joseph Simmons was wearing a bright orange blazer and blue tie — the school colors — as he fulfilled his promise to show team pride at the state tournament.
“One ref during the game, he said, ‘I think that’s a lucky blazer,’ and I said, ‘If we win four games, I won’t ever wash it,’ ” Simmons said.
Marshall County boys’ coach Gus Gillespie wore an orange blazer when his team played in the state tournament in Rupp Arena two years ago, and the school’s fans have been urging Simmons to do the same.
“I said, ‘Well, nobody has given me one, and I don’t know where to find one,’ ” he said.
Enter the operator of Mister Penguin Tuxedo shop in Paducah.
“He said, ‘I’ll get one made. What size do you wear?’ ” Simmons said. “So he gave it to me during the season, and I said I’d break it out at the right time. That was kind of a challenge to our team: ‘You keep moving on, and I’ll wear it at the state tournament.’ I’ll guess you see it again tomorrow night.”
Marshall County, which will play Clark County in the quarterfinals, is making its state-record 22nd Sweet 16 appearance, and Simmons said he’s committed to maintaining the Lady Marshals’ strong tradition.
“I’m just blessed to be a part of it,” he said. “Hey, if this is going to help us winning ballgames, I’m willing to do it. Heck, I hula danced last year in Hawaii with a coconut bra on, so this right here is a lot better.”
E’town’s Boley receives Gatorade award
Elizabethtown sophomore Erin Boley was named the Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year on Thursday. The 6-foot-1 Boley was averaging 20.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.6 assists going into the Sacred Heart game and is rated the nation’s No. 11 sophomore by Blue Star Basketball.
She is the daughter of Scott Boley, a 1988 LaRue County graduate who went on to play for Western Kentucky.
“What makes Erin so special is her versatility,” E’town coach Tim Mudd said. “She can play a point guard or a center. Erin’s ability to make the midrange jumper separates her from most players.”
The Gatorade award recognizes athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character. Boley has a 4.0 GPA and is vice president of the sophomore class.
She now is eligible for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award to be given later this month.
University of Kentucky signee Alexis Jennings of Sparkman, Ala., and Indiana University signee Tyra Buss of Mount Carmel, Ill., were among Gatorade’s other state honorees.
Rankin leaning toward Mississippi, Morehead
Perry County Central Miss Basketball finalist Kayla Rankin, who had 11 points and eight rebounds against Marshall County, said that Mississippi and Morehead State are her top college options and that she has scholarship offers from both.
She said she plans to visit Ole Miss and Morehead but hasn’t scheduled those trips. She said she is also interested in Western Kentucky, which has former Perry County Central player Kendall Noble on the roster.
Rankin, who averaged 28.4 points and 14.5 rebounds through the regional tournament, said she is academically qualified to play NCAA Division I ball.
Skinner’s list of college offers growing
* Clark County junior Sandra Skinner, who had 25 points and seven rebounds and made 9 of 11 shots in a 79-70 victory over Corbin, has an impressive list of midmajor scholarship offers and said she also has received interest from Louisville, Kentucky and Purdue.
Skinner said she has offers from Murray State, Morehead State, Belmont, Purdue, North Carolina Greensboro, North Carolina A&T, Florida Atlantic and Northern Kentucky.
Her teammate, senior point guard Lexxus Graham, doesn’t have any scholarship offers but hopes to play in college.
— Steve Jones and Jason Frakes