For nearly an entire season, everything went Scott County’s way: a No. 1 ranking from the outset, more than 80 points per game, a school record 34 wins, only one defeat ...
Owensboro Catholic, already an All “A” Classic champion this year, took a huge step toward the full-field state title by stunning Scott County 62-51 in the quarterfinals of the 58th KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena.
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In the postgame press conference, Coach Steve Helton, seniors Maaliya Owens and Juliette Smith and junior Morgan DeFoor struggled to maintain their composure for the difficult time at the podium.
“It hurts, man it hurts, but what a journey we had that nobody can take away from us,” Helton said, also noting his one trip to Rupp as a player back in the day when his team lost in the second round. He doesn’t remember the score. He remembers the experience. He’s hoping his players will remember it fondly, as well. Last season, Scott County exited in the first round.
“We definitely came together this year,” Owens said, fighting tears. “We proved our point. Today just wasn’t our day. We fought, clawed and tried. … But it was definitely a great season. I love these girls so much, and it was great to go on this ride with my family.”
Scott County depends on a fast pace, taking and making quick shots that bury a shell-shocked opponent. But Owensboro Catholic withstood the Scott County runs in the first and third periods and imposed its own will on the game in the half court.
The Cardinals jumped to a 6-0 run in the first period and went on a 15-7 run in the third to take leads in each half, but both times, Owensboro Catholic answered thanks in large part to the skills and length of 6-foot-2 Sarah Beth Clemens and 6-foot Hannah McKay.
Clemens went 4-for-4 from three-point range, including three in the first half, as the Aces broke out to a 30-25 halftime advantage. Clemens finished with a 16 points.
“When (their) 6-2 is hitting threes, it makes you extend your defense,” Helton said. “When we extended our defense it left us isolated in the post. You had to pick your poison.”
McKay and her teammates presented the other poison. The Aces ran cuts behind the Scott County defense and created mismatches after getting both of Scott County’s tallest players, Malea Williams and Kenady Tompkins in foul trouble early. Both ultimately fouled out.
McKay scored on consecutive baskets-and-fouls underneath to end the third period and draw the Aces within 45-44 at the final break. Her first touch of the fourth period put Owensboro Catholic back in front 46-45 to start a 6-0 run that Scott County couldn’t overcome.
McKay finished with a game-high 23 points. MacKenzie Keelin added 12 for the Aces. DeFoor led Scott County with 20 points. Owens and Smith each scored 11. Scott County shot 31 percent for the game compared to Owensboro Catholic’s 44 percent. The Aces went 5-for-8 on three-pointers to Scott County’s 6-for-24.
The win propels the Aces into the program’s first semifinals in seven trips to the state tournament.
“They’ve got a lot of heart and they gave it all to me today,” Owensboro Catholic Coach Michael Robertson said. “I’m excited to finally get past the quarterfinals into the final four, but we want more than that.”