Sacred Heart’s Josie Gilvin and her teammates ran off 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and held on for a 63-53 victory over Anderson County to move on to Saturday night’s championship game of the Mingua Beef Jerky/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 tournament in Rupp Arena.
“I think she was a little nervous at the very beginning, and kind of played a little timid, and then in the second half was when we kind of turned her loose,” said Sacred Heart’s Donna Moir, who got her 700th win as a coach for the all-girls Louisville Catholic school. “Josie doesn’t have to score for us. She causes so much havoc in everything she does.”
Trailing 45-42 with 6:55 to play, Gilvin, who had already registered a rare triple-double highlighted by 10 steals earlier in the tournament, scored six of her team’s next 10 points and notched three more steals and an offensive rebound during a stretch that proved to be the deciding run of the game.
Triniti Ralston hit a pair of free throws to cap the Sacred Heart rally and put the Valkyries up 52-45 with 4:12 left.
Tied at 11-11 at the end of the first quarter and 21-21 at half, Anderson built an eight-point lead early in the third quarter as Amiya Jenkins got into the lane for a pair of three-point conversions and hit a baseline jumper in between. Sacred Heart responded with two three-pointers from Olivia Kaufman and another from Reagan Bender to help the Valkyries tie the game back up at 40-40 going into the fourth.
“We were trying to just run them off the three-point line a little bit and make them make tough shots,” Moir said. “I think the change in the game was when we put Triniti on Jenkins about midway through the third quarter … She did a great job to shut her down, got her frustrated and then we were able to make our run.”
That move also freed up Gilvin, who had been helping check Jenkins to that point in the game.
As Anderson tried to scramble back in the final minute, Gilvin flew in from behind a Bearcats’ fast break and grabbed her third steal of the quarter, taking an Anderson player’s dribble for herself and heading back up the court where she was fouled. Gilvin hit one of two free throws to give Sacred Heart its largest lead of the game, 58-51 with 48 seconds to play.
With a young team few observers rated as highly of some of the Sacred Heart teams of past years, the Valkyries (24-7) advanced to their first state title game since Moir won three straight state championships from 2002 to 2004.
“It is a different feeling,” Moir said. “Now, you can enjoy it more — the game prep and coming in, and their expectations.”
Gilvin led the Valkyries with 19 points, followed by Ralston with 13 and Alexandra Wolff with 10. Jenkins led Anderson with 24 points. Jacie Chesser added 12.
Anderson County (28-3) came into the tournament with a team ranked No. 1 for much of the season and the No. 2 team in the Sweet 16 behind Bethlehem, according to Dave Cantrall’s ratings. Coach Clay Birdwhistell said his team embraced those expectations.
“We made no bones about it, our season, we wanted to be state champions,” Birdwhistell said. “This isn’t what we wanted today. But the 13 kids in that locker room bled for Anderson County and paid the price every day. It didn’t end the way we wanted to. But there’s honor in what they did. And there’s honor in how they did it. And I couldn’t be more proud to be their coach.”