Sacred Heart Academy has won the championship game of the Mingua Beef Jerky Sweet 16 Tournament, the school’s fifth Kentucky state basketball title and first since 2004.
In a press conference after the game, Varsity head coach, Donna Moir said, “Every day we’d sing the national anthem in our gym and I’d look at those banners and think, ‘Oh, my God, 2004 was so long ago. Am I ever going to get back?’”
She did indeed get back to the big dance, and this year took a young team to the Sweet 16 that was full of determination, grit, and heart. They were not the favorite heading into the tourney and battled through three close matches to bring home the title. Junior, Josie Gilvin, and sophomore, Trinity Ralston were consistent threats on both offense and defense, sinking shots, stealing dribbles, and rattling opponents. Alex Wolff and Olivia Kauffman performed in the paint grabbing rebounds and scoring points. And a trio of freshman in Reagan Bender, Claire Russell, and Angelina Pelayo were all difference-makers in their first Sweet 16 appearances.
The closeness and chemistry of this team made it so special. They had no egos; everyone played for Sacred Heart, not for themselves. They truly cared for each other and also for the past Sacred Heart players - those who played before but never got the title.
Gilvin was named the Sweet 16 MVP after posting four points, eight rebounds, five assists, five blocks, and five steals in the championship game. Ralston and Wolff were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Sacred Heart is only graduating three seniors from this squad, Maggie Montano, Danielle Schafer and Aubree Littlejohn, plus senior team manager, Brooke Arends. The eleven other rostered players include five juniors, one sophomore, and five freshmen.
In her 30th season as head coach, Moir, who was also named the National Girls Basketball Coach of the Year last season, picked up her 700th career win at the semi-final game, but said earning 701 in the finals was much sweeter. The Valkyries ended the season 25-7 and look to return to the Sweet 16 many times with this young squad.
This was the third state championship title for the Valkyries this year, bringing the school’s all-time total to 96. Field Hockey and Soccer both earned the same honors last fall.