High School Basketball

‘It’s hard to get up here and do this.’ Favorite overcomes halftime deficit for All ‘A’ title.

Owensboro Catholic’s Catherine Head, left, celebrates with teammates Ally Maggard, center, and Allie Hamilton, right, after beating Walton Verona 44-40, during the finals of the girls All-A Classic, Sunday, January 27, 2019, at EKU’s McBrayer Arena in Richmond.
Owensboro Catholic’s Catherine Head, left, celebrates with teammates Ally Maggard, center, and Allie Hamilton, right, after beating Walton Verona 44-40, during the finals of the girls All-A Classic, Sunday, January 27, 2019, at EKU’s McBrayer Arena in Richmond.

It was in doubt for much of the first half but when the final horn sounded, the favorite coming into the 2019 All “A” Classic girls’ state tournament emerged with the title.

Owensboro Catholic defeated Walton-Verona 46-40 on Sunday afternoon at Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena. It was the Aces’ third All “A” Classic state title and first since 2013; they also won in 2011.

Hannah McKay was named MVP of the tournament. She averaged 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds through the four games, and she was Owensboro Catholic’s leading scorer in their 57-42 win over Covington Holy Cross in Saturday’s semifinal round.

Walton-Verona led by as many 12 points late in the second quarter and held a 23-16 advantage at the break. Owensboro Catholic took its first second-half lead on a three-pointer by Spencer Harvey with about 30 seconds left in the third quarter but Haylee Neeley hit a jumper for Walton-Verona to keep it in front heading into the fourth, 30-29.

The Aces owned the last period: They held Walton-Verona to 3-for-9 shooting from the field while going 4-for-7 themselves. Owensboro Catholic built an eight point lead with 3:24 to play and survived a wave of missed free throws down the stretch to head back home happy.

“It’s hard to get up here and do this,” Aces Coach Michael Robertson said. “It doesn’t matter, a Christmas tournament, any kind of tournament, it’s hard to win it all. We played a heck of a team, they can make you work on the defensive end. What I noticed up here, from us, is we really locked down and played good defense, and that’s what it was gonna take for us to win this thing.”

McKay, a 6-foot junior, has offers from Murray State, Western Kentucky, Jacksonville State and Xavier. She’s focused for now on the season still in front of her and her teammates; the Aces are looking to make the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen for the third time in the last four years.

Both previous All “A” Classic champion units went on to do that, and this group doesn’t want to add a blemish to that history.

“I believe that we played really good teams here and that it moves us forward for the real state tournament,” McKay said.

Owensboro Catholic (17-6) has played as tough a schedule as most girls’ teams in the state but doesn’t have a wealth of top-25 wins to show for its effort. It entered the All “A” Classic as the only top-25 team in the field; the Aces were ranked 25th in last week’s Cantrall Ratings.

“We want to build on it. We’ve been trying to build all year and we’ve came up short a lot early,” Robertson said. “We’ve played a lot of teams, we’ve challenged ourselves, and we’ve came up short in those games. This was good to actually see us come through and actually get the win.”

Neeley and Emma Strunk each lead Walton-Veron with 11 points. Neeley had five assists and Strunk had three steals.

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