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Girls’ Sweet 16: Sacred Heart wins its fifth title after championship thriller

Josh Moore, Jared Peck
·6 min read

A meeting of throwback champions delivered a title bout befitting of their legacies.

Sacred Heart defeated Marshall County, 49-47, to win the 2021 Mingua Beef Jerky/KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 championship on Saturday night.

BOX SCORE: Sacred Heart 49, Marshall County 47

Neither team ever led by more than five points, and most of the second half was played within a single-possession margin over the final 12 minutes. Josie Gilvin, a Sacred Heart junior, sealed the deal by blocking a go-ahead three-point attempt by Marshall County’s Jada Driver with 8 seconds to play. The Marshals earned another possession with 1.4 seconds to go but failed to get a shot off after a potential foul call resulted instead in an inbound with just 0.2 seconds to play.

Gilvin was named tournament MVP. She had four points, eight rebounds, five assists, five blocks and five steals in the final game.

It was Sacred Heart’s first championship since 2004 and its fifth overall, matching Ashland Blazer, Butler and Laurel County for the most in state history.

Marshall County was vying for its third title and first since 1984.

Sacred Heart’s Josie Gilvin (33) was named Sweet 16 MVP.
Sacred Heart’s Josie Gilvin (33) was named Sweet 16 MVP.

Marshall County’s Halle Langhi struck first with a wide-open layup 75 seconds into the contest and after three straight Sacred Heart misses. Alexandra Wolff and Triniti Ralston hit jumpers on the Valkyries’ next two trips, the second a three-pointer, to put them in front. They went up by five on a Reagan Bender layup before the Marshals offered a 4-0 answer. Gilvin, who came up with three steals in the first period, sunk a pair of free with 27 seconds following her last to give Sacred Heart a 12-9 lead heading into the second.

The Marshals missed as many shots in the first quarter — five — as they did their earlier semifinal game against Henderson County, and failed to connect on their first two tries in the second quarter before Langhi delivered a layup at the 5:43 mark. Cayson Conner converted an and-one free throw 40 seconds later to tie the game. Sacred Heart from there regained the lead three times only to have Marshall answer. With a little more than a minute left, Bender fed a cutting Gilvin for an easy layup, and Conner went 1-for-2 at the free-throw line in an another bid at a Marshall response. Gilvin dished to Ralston for a corner three near as time wound down to give the Valkyries a 26-22 halftime lead.

Marshall County found a flow out of the break. The Marshals scored eight straight to take a 30-26 lead, and eventually swelled it to five on a Langhi jumper before the Valkyries evened things again; Ralston got a kind bounce on a trey from the top of the key and Bender right after stole an inbound and got an easy two to tie it at 33-all. Sacred Heart briefly went back ahead on an Angelina Pelayo jumper before Marshall closed with the final four points; a layup by Conner gave it a 37-35 edge.

Ralston connected from three again to kick off a 5-0 burst by the Valkyries to open the fourth. Sophie Galloway swiftly answered for Marshall, delivering a tip-in and a jumper on consecutive possessions to start an 8-2 run for the Marshals. Marshall County held a narrow lead until it fouled Ralston on a three-point attempt; she sunk all three to tie the game at 47 with 2:33 to play.

Sacred Heart twice ended up with the ball inside the final two minutes on crucial calls — a jump ball tie-up and a walk near mid-court — and capitalized on the second, going up 49-47 on a Wolff putback on a Ralston miss from three with 55 seconds left. Marshall attempted an entry pass to Langhi out of a timeout but it was stolen by Bender, beginning a series of Sacred Heart inbound passes followed by Marshall County fouls.

The Valkyries lost the last inbound, giving Marshall another opportunity. Driver got a three-pointer off but it was blocked by Gilvin, who missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw series. Marshall County was able to inbound twice with under 2 seconds left but were unable to get a shot up.

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