Holy Cross senior Deja Turner shoots a 3-pointer. St. Henry vs. Holy Cross 9th Region quarterfinals, March 2 NKU, Bank of Kentucky Center.
The Holy Cross Indians haven’t lost a girls’ basketball game in 55 days. They hope they never lose another one.
The 35th District champions cruised to a 55-33 first-round win over St. Henry in Monday’s Ninth Region tournament opener at Northern Kentucky University’s Bank of Kentucky Center.
The reigning All “A” Classic state champions are not finished winning titles. The victory over St. Henry was the Indians’ 16th in a row, keeping alive hopes for their first Kentucky High School Athletic Association regional championship in 39 years and first-ever state crown.
“We’ve got a lot of experience, and the girls have felt disappointment,” Holy Cross coach Kes Murphy said. “But they don’t want to feel it again.”
Sophomore guard Aleah Tucker was an offensive and defensive catalyst for Holy Cross. She hit a 3-point basket and led balanced Indians scoring with 13 points, eight coming on free-throws. She also had three steals. Senior guard Deja Turner, a Wright State recruit, was next with 11 points.
“We’ve had different players step up at different times this season, and a lot of girls stepped up tonight,” Turner said.
Senior center Cessie Mayhaus scored eight points for the Indians. Twin Ally Mayhaus, a Bellarmine recruit, added seven points. Senior forward Abby Hassert scored six, and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Junior point guard Dajah McClendon had a team-high five assists.
The Indians put together a 9-2 run to end the first quarter and a 9-2 run to begin the second, and led 42-16 after three quarters. They outrebounded the Crusaders, 30-24.
Holy Cross, 27-3 and top-ranked in The Enquirer coaches’ poll, plays third-ranked Highlands (30-3) in a 6 p.m. Saturday semifinal that will have a championship feel.
The season for 34th District runner-up St. Henry (15-16) is finished. Kent State recruit Savannah Neace led the Crusaders with 14 points.
“First and foremost, we executed on both ends of the floor,” Murphy said. “Against Highlands, we need to focus on our defense, and do things the right way. And we need to execute on offense.”
Highlands eliminated ninth-ranked Boone County in Monday’s second semifinal, extended its winning streak to 13.
The Indians and Bluebirds have been ranked in the local top three all season, with appearances in the Associated Press state top 20, and the top 10 of the Litkenhous Ratings, where Holy Cross is ranked fifth and Highlands ninth.
Holy Cross beat Highlands, 40-39 in double-overtime in their only meeting Jan. 24 in Covington. The Indians’ Turner and McClendon combined for 29 points.
It’s a return trip to the regional final four for Holy Cross and Highlands. Both teams lost in last season’s semifinals. The Indians are in the semis for the fifth time in 11 years and seventh time in 15 years. They won their only regional crown in 1976.
Holy Cross (27-3): Tucker 2 8 13, Turner 2 7 11, C. Mayhaus 3 2 8, A. Mayhaus 3 1 7, Hassert 3 0 6, Gabbard 1 2 4, McClendon 1 1 3, Beal 0 3 3. Totals 15 24 55.
St. Henry (15-16): Neace 3 8 14, Miller 1 3 6, Youngwirth 2 0 5, Kellam 1 0 3, McGinnis 1 1 3, Lehmkuhl 1 0 2. Totals 9 12 33.
Halftime: Holy Cross, 26-11. 3-pointers: HC 1 (Tucker). SH 3 (Kellam, Miller, Youngwirth).