Down by 18 points to Sacred Heart and heading into the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s Class Act Seventh Region semifinal, I’liyah Green and her Male girls’ basketball teammates made a promise to themselves: this would not be the final eight minutes of the season.
“That was our determination,” the senior said. “Just win it.”
Green and the rest of the Bulldogs kept that promise as the No. 3 team in The Courier-Journal Litkenhous Ratings rallied to beat the Valkyries 63-62 in overtime. Green, a Cincinnati signee, led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds. All of her points came in the game’s final 16:55.
Male needed the furious rally to keep its hopes of repeating as regional champions alive. They will defend that title Saturday evening at Valley.
Just as the Bulldogs (29-2) dominated late, the No. 13 Valkyries (23-8) were just as dominant in the first half. Sacred Heart used an 11-2 run over the final 4:12 of the first period to take an 18-6 lead. Male not only missed 9 of 12 shots in the quarter, but they also committed 11 turnovers.
The second quarter wasn’t much better, as Male made just one of its eight shots that period and trailed by as much as 21 in the quarter. As coach Champ Ligon talked to his team at halftime, he reminded his players they had made big comebacks before. Most notably, the Lady Bulldogs rallied from 17 points down to beat Manual in the 2015 Louisville Invitational Tournament.
“They were so geared up that we might have blown our early energy just earlier in the day because we were too keyed up,” said Ligon, talking about getting the team ready for the 3:30 start, which included pulling the students out of class.
But Male found its second wind at the start of the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs stepped up the pressure on the Valkyries. Sacred Heart committed six turnovers to start the quarter and could not take advantage of Male’s foul situation as it missed the front end of all three one-and-one free throw opportunities.
“We kind of imploded a little bit on ourselves, but Male made some good plays” Sacred Heart coach Donna Moir said.
The Valkyries did not score until a Grace Berger 15-footer made it 49-41 with 2:59 left in regulation. But Male scored the next eight points, tying the game at 49 on a Ciaja Harbison layup. It was the first tie since the game’s first minute.
Berger hit two free throws with 09.6 seconds remaining to push Sacred Heart back into the lead. That set the stage for Harbison, who dribbled the length of the court and hit a layup with two seconds left to force the extra session.
“Coach said, ‘Get the ball to the basket,’” said Harbison, who finished with nine points and six assists. “If the ball’s in my hands and there’s nine seconds left, there’s no choice but to get there.”
Male, which shot 56.4 percent after halftime, would get its first lead of the game on a Cameron Browning putback a minute into overtime and led by as much as five in the final minute to put the game away.
Kiki Samsel led Sacred Heart with 21 points. Berger added 19.
Sacred Heart (23-8): Harris 4, Samsel 21, Sivils 10, Taylor 4, Berger 19, Fichter 4.
Male (29-2): Harbison 9, Sexton 5, Higan 11, Browning 10, Green 21, Calvert 7.
3-point goals: Samsel 3, Sivils, Sexton, Calvert