Story and Pictures by Josh Fischer, Editor
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In most rivalry games, records go out the window. It becomes more about heart, will and a little luck. Both Assumption and Sacred Heart had ample supply of each Sunday, but it was the Valkyries, behind freshman Grace Berger’s game-high 17 points, who just had too much offense for the host Rockets. Sacred Heart (11-5) defeated Assumption (2-12) 55-41 in front of a near-capacity crowd.
“This is a really huge game for us,” Sacred Heart’s Ashley Johnson said. “I’m a senior, so it’s our last time having this big of a rival game, so I had to just leave it all out there, put my all into it since this is it.” Johnson scored 16 points in the win as she and Berger found success driving to the basket and beating the Rockets down the court on outlets and fastbreaks.
The game was the last Assumption-Sacred Heart rivalry game for all seniors, but for one Sacred Heart senior it was a bittersweet win. Gretchen Samsel tore her ACL two games ago versus Newport Catholic. She is out for the season with the injury. Her teammates surprised her by wearing warmup jerseys against Assumption that said “ALL IN FOR #10.” Samsel’s jersey number is No. 10.
“I had no idea they were going to get these jerseys,” Samsel said with tears in her eyes after the game. “I had no idea. That’s kind of why I’m emotional right now.”
When asked how she is coping with being sidelined for the season, the Valkyrie senior was resolute: “It’s different, but I like it because I can support my team in a new way than before, and give them something to work for.”
“(Samsel’s injury) definitely gives us something to work for,” Johnson said. “We might not always go hard in practice, but now we are really trying to pick it up and do it for Gretchen.”
It was a gritty defensive game in the opening quarter, with the lead going back and forth until both teams found themselves tied at 10. Just before the buzzer Berger broke the knot with a pull-up jumper to put Sacred Heart up 12-10 after one quarter. Berger scored on a drive to start the second quarter, and the Valkyries extended their lead to as much as 10 as the quarter progressed.
The Valkyries looked to take a 9-point lead into halftime, until lightning struck for Assumption. With two seconds left on the clock, senior Cassidy Janes hit a shot from halfcourt to ignite the home crowd and cut the Sacred Heart lead to six going into the locker rooms at the half.
In the third and fourth quarter Sacred Heart would eventually wear down Assumption. Kiki Samsel, Gretchen’s freshman sister, would help key the momentum with a blocked shot on the Rocket’s 6’6” center Nora Kiesler. The blocked shot led to a Berger layup. Berger then blocked a shot of Janes, keying another fastbreak layup and taking the lead back to 10. The Valkyries would lead by as much as 16 before finally finishing the game ahead 14.
Janes and Holly Wurth led Assumption in scoring with 8 points apiece. Kiesler had 6 points and led all rebounders with 7 points.
Assumption plays next at Butler on January 23. Sacred Heart plays Atherton at home January 20.