|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto. Highlands guard Zoie Barth (14) tries to score on Holy Cross senior Cessie Mayhaus (32) in Saturday's 9th Region semifinal contest.|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Newport Central Catholic sophomore Meg Martin (31) drives on Saturday against Covington Holmes.|
Unfortunately, they could not get past the 35th District opponents in the semifinals to make that happen. The Highlands Ladybirds (30-4 overall) fell to the Covington Holy Cross Lady Indians in the first game in a battle of district champions and the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds lost to the Covington Holmes Lady Bulldogs in the second game in a battle of district runners-up Saturday at the Bank of Kentucky Center on the Northern Kentucky University campus.
Highlands came out flat and that proved to be costly against the streaking Lady Indians. The Ladybirds made just 9-of-36 shots for 25 percent including 4-of-20 from three-point range for 20 percent.
"We usually shoot threes around 40 percent and we go 4-for-20," Richey said. "I thought Holy Cross had us do some things we didn't want to do. It cost us. If we knock down shots, it's a whole different game."
Holy Cross clogs things near the basket with 6-foot-1-inch senior twin posts Ally and Cessie Mayhaus then uses its quickness to defend the perimeter with Deja Turner and Dejah McClendon. Turner and McClendon led Holy Cross with 15 and 10 points respectively.
"It's who we are and what we do," said Kes Murphy, Holy Cross Head Coach. "We didn't make many adjustments. We just wanted to do a few things a little different. We didn't do a good job of that in the first half. I was doing too much talking on the sideline. But in the second half, they buckled down and played the way we're supposed to play."
The Lady Indians (28-3) got things going offensively in the second half to pull away after leading just 15-12 at halftime. Their largest lead was 49-29 in the fourth quarter. They made 14-of-28 shots for 50 percent including 2-of-4 from three-point range for the same percentage.
Highlands still managed to put two players in double figures. Junior Brianna Adler led the way with 14 points and post McKenzie Leigh scored 10.
The Ladybirds made 10-of-12 free throws for 83 percent. On the other hand, the Lady Indians made 19-of-22 free throws for 86 percent.
Highlands had been hurting teams with its defense. But in this game, Holy Cross had nine steals off 17 turnovers to eight Highlands steals off 14 Lady Indian turnovers. The Lady Indians outscored the Ladybirds, 16-7 in points off turnovers.
Highlands scored the game's first five points before Holmes scored eight in a row. The Ladybirds also took a 10-9 lead in the second after two Leigh free throws. But Holy Cross took the lead for good 17 seconds later.
Highlands graduates four players from the team in Lydia Graves, Alex Combs, Whitney Quillen and Kristyn Lukjan. Graves will continue her career at Georgetown College and Combs will attend West Virginia Tech with Quillen playing softball at Thomas More. The Ladybirds won two district championships and appeared in one 9th Region title game in their four years of high school.
"We told them this one game can't define what they did this season," Richey said. "It was an unbelievable year. You can't say enough about them. I am just happy I was able to be part of their careers."
Adler, Haley Coffey and Leigh return as starters next year. Kiersten Clukey and Zoie Barth are front-runners to be starters. They key for Highlands will be developing depth in the offseason.
The second game saw the defending region champion Thoroughbreds (20-13) give a valiant effort. But the team that Holmes (30-2) assembled with several transfers including former NewCath post Alexus Mayes had too much depth.
"We battled and hung in there with them," said George Stoll, NewCath Head Coach. "We
just couldn't make shots down the stretch. We missed several lay-ups and a couple open shots and they made them down the stretch. But I'm proud of them. They played hard."
The physical game saw a total of 46 fouls including a technical foul on Holmes Head Coach Tony Perkins when he argued with officials after he felt NewCath should have been called for an intentional foul. The Thoroughbreds saw two starters foul out and another with four while Holmes had two draw four.
Both teams saw two players reach double digits. Michaela Ware scored 14 for NewCath and Ansley Davenport had 10 with Maurissa Brown and Hannah Tubbs scoring 13 and 12 respectively for the Lady Bulldogs.
NewCath came out strong to start the game scoring eight straight to go up 8-2. The Thoroughbreds led 11-4 before Shania Parker made a triple to cut the lead to 11-9 after the first quarter.
Bot teams continued to struggle offensively in the second. Holmes built a 16-11 lead in the second quarter before Davenport made a three to trim it to 16-15 at halftime.
The game stayed tight in the third. Taylor Tolle scored to cut the Homes lead to 24-23 before the Lady Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run to go up 32-23 with 1:42 left in the quarter. Davenport hit another three late in the third and Ware converted a three-point play to cut into the deficit. The Lady Bulldogs led 33-30 entering the fourth quarter.
NewCath took the lead briefly in the fourth. Ware and Meg Martin hit two free throws to put NewCath up 34-33 with 6:30 left in the game. But Holmes pulled away scoring 13 in a row.
The Thoroughbreds graduate five seniors in Ware, Loren Zimmerman, Hannah Daunt, Sarah Neace and MiKayla Seibert. They won two district championships, a region crown last year and made three appearances in the All "A" State Tournament semifinals with two runner-up finishes.
"It was an unbelievable four years for the senior class," Stoll said. "I am very proud to be their coach."
NewCath will build around three returning starters next season. They are Davenport, Martin and Olivia Schalk.