Sacred Heart senior Erin Toller admitted she was not at her best Friday night against No. 10 CAL. But when the Valkyries needed a big time shot, she rose to the occasion.
Toller’s three-pointer with 1:12 to play put No. 1 Sacred Heart in the lead for good, and propelled the Valkyries to a 62-59 win over the Centurions.
“The first half I was a little frustrated,” said Toller, who shot 3-of-20 from the floor. “My defense wasn’t really bad, and not being in foul trouble really helped. Being able to make passes to get my teammates open and doing the extra work besides my offense, I knew that would keep us in the game.
“The whole game I was hoping for a chance to hit a three and get us over the hump. It was a great pass from Destinee (Marshall) because she set the defender up and saw me in the corner.”
Sacred Heart (23-1) raced out to an early 16-3 lead on the strength of eleven early points from Marshall, forcing the Centurions to play catchup most of the game. CAL (18-6) finally broke through and took its first lead with 2:50 remaining in the fourth quarter following a layup from senior Mia Beam. Sacred Heart freshman Triniti Ralston responded quickly with a three on the other end to put the Valkyries back on top, before the Centurions scored five straight points to go ahead 56-52 with 2:11 to play.
“That’s probably one of the first times we’ve been down in the fourth quarter like that,” said Sacred Heart head coach Donna Moir. “We didn’t pout. We just came back and kept playing.”
Trailing by four with 90 seconds to play, the Valkyries rallied with a 10-0 run, highlighted by Toller’s triple.
“She’s got the green light whenever,” said Moir. “As a coach, I just think the next one is in.
“It was a little bit more interesting than I wanted. But it was a great game. Great high school atmosphere.”
Marshall led the Valkyries in scoring with 16 points. Senior Kristen Clemons finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Toller and Rolston also reached double figures with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The win is Sacred Heart’s 15th in a row. The Valkyries have yet to lose to a team from Kentucky this season, an impressive feat given their hefty schedule.
“I’ll play anybody. We don’t back down from anybody. This is a good game to play this time of year to have that confidence going in (the postseason),” said Moir.
Senior Shelby Calhoun led the Centurions with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Beam and sophomore Jaya McClure each finished with 14 points. CAL head coach Cameron Pridemore acknowledged he would instead learn from a win than a loss, but the Centurions walk away encouraged despite coming up short against the top-ranked Valkyries.
“I thought we did good after the first four minutes. I think they scored 18 in the first four minutes and held them to 13 the rest of the half,” he said. “We settled in, but we have to settle in earlier.
“The vibe in that locker room was very upbeat. They know how that game went and what opportunities were there for us. They want another shot.”