Nila Blackford has emerged this season as one of the city’s top young forwards, and on Monday, the Manual High School sophomore dominated against a Christian Academy team that was powerless to stop her.
The 5-foot-11 Blackford posted 22 points and 10 rebounds as the host Crimsons rolled to an 81-58 victory over CAL in a quarterfinal of the Seventh Region Tournament.
All 10 of Blackford’s baskets came via layups or short jumpers.
“I knew they wanted to get it to me a lot because (CAL) doesn’t have the height that we have,” Blackford said. “They knew I could take advantage down there, so a lot of the looks were designed for me.”
Manual (22-7) – No. 6 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – also got big games from guards Jaela Johnson (27 points) and Tonysha Curry (18 points, 11 rebounds). The Crimsons advanced to face No. 3 Male in Wednesday’s 6:45 p.m. regional semifinal at Valley.
CAL coach Perry White was worried about Manual’s size advantage and saw it produce a 32-15 domination on the boards.
“You can’t beat a team like Manual if you don’t box them out, not our team anyway,” White said.
Manual was a force from the tipoff, jumping to leads of 15-0 and 29-4. Johnson had nine points and Blackford eight in the first quarter.
“We played scared … and came out nervous, making uncharacteristic turnovers, dribbling off our feet, making bad passes we don’t normally do,” White said.
CAL (20-13) settled down during the second quarter and made a game of it, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Summer Conti and Emma Wesley during a 23-4 run that made it 42-35 at halftime.
But Manual regained control at the start of the second half, opening with a 13-4 run for a 53-39 lead at the 5:04 mark. CAL never got closer than 11 points the rest of the game.
Wesley led the Centurions with 25 points.
Crimsons coach Jeff Sparks said one key was refocusing the offense around Blackford in the paint.
“I thought she did a great job, and I thought we did a good job over the course of the game of executing and trying to get the ball into her,” Sparks said. “We knew we had that strength, and we wanted to make sure we were using it. And she finished.”
Now it’s to face Male in a rematch of last year’s Seventh Region final, which the Crimsons won 64-47. The teams met Feb. 17, with the Bulldogs winning 66-57.
“We definitely have to stop their fast-break game and stop those easy points they got on us last game,” Blackford said. “We’re capable of that. Our defense wasn’t as good that game, so we’re definitely going to have to lock down this time.”
In other Seventh Region quarterfinals
Male 84, Waggener 9: Logan Calvert scored 19 points, including the 1,000th of her career, to lead the host Bulldogs (29-2) over the Wildcats (4-27). Ciaja Harbison, Joelle Johnson and Jada Owens added 11 points apiece for Male.
Eastern 69, Central 34: Natalie Collins scored 15 points and Destiny Houseal added 10 points and 14 rebounds to lead the No. 15 Eagles (23-8) over the visiting Yellowjackets (15-14). Eastern will face Sacred Heart in Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. regional semifinal at Valley. Dariah Neal paced Central with 20 points.
Sacred Heart 66, Assumption 43: Indiana University commit Grace Berger had 16 points and six rebounds to lead the No. 6 Valkyries (27-5) over the visiting Rockets (14-20). Ashlee Harris added 14 points for Sacred Heart, which had a 25-2 advantage in points off turnovers. Abby McQueary led Assumption with 10 points.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com. Daniel Karell contributed to this story.
MANUAL 81, CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 58
CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (20-13) – Summer Conti 8p; Mia Beam 5p; Emma Wesley 25p; Shelby Calhoun 9p; Sarah McDonald 11p.
MANUAL (22-7) – Nila Blackford 22p, 10r; Jaela Johnson 27p; Tonysha Curry 18p, 11r; Tyonne Howard 6p; Aniah Griffin 2p; Jeanay Riley 4p; Nyah Smith 2p.
MALE 84, WAGGENER 9
WAGGENER (4-27) – Lasha Dunn 2p; Tiara Biermacher 1p; Nezja Elliott 4p; Rosie Cipolla 2p.
MALE (29-2) – Kynidi Striverson 5p; Ciaja Harbison 11p; Joelle Johnson 11p; Alana Striverson 6p; Jada Owens 11p; India Green 4p; Kyra Hogan 5p; Cameron Browning 10p; Maya Crimes 2p; Logan Calvert 19p.
EASTERN 69, CENTRAL 34
CENTRAL (15-14) – Dariah Neal 20p, 4r; Stephonie Cole 4p, 2r; Precious Hereford 4p, 8r, 2a; Shamaria Stikes 3p, 3r; Lisa Guin 2p, 7r; Aurianna Barnett 1p
EASTERN (23-8) – Natalie Collins 15p, 4r, 4a; Destiny Houseal 10p, 14r; Kiara Pearl 14p, 2r; Breanna Anthony 8p; Mikayla Kinnard 7p, 5r; Briana Mishler 5p; Tedi Nunn 4p; Hunter Wright 2p; Molly Thompson 2p; Devin Beach 2p, 6r.
SACRED HEART 66, ASSUMPTION 43
ASSUMPTION (14-20) – McKenna Schelb 4p; Abby McQueary 10p, 6r; Samantha Babey 6p; Jenna Calhoun 5p; Piper Gray 1p, 7r; Jacqueline Raque 4p; Taylor Allen 5p, 5a; Payton Cronen 8p.
SACRED HEART (27-5) – Destinee Marshall 2p; Ashlee Harris 14p; Kiki Samsel 4p; Caroline Flaherty 2p; Erin Toller 10p; Kia Sivils 4p, 6a 3s; Kristen Clemons 7p, 3b; Grace Berger 16p, 6r; Natalie Fichter 5p, 6r; Taylor Utter 2p.