Triniti Ralston plays basketball with an edge. Her facial expressions on the court are of intensity. Sometimes she looks like she’s mad at the world. The athletic Sacred Heart point guard leads a balanced Valkyries offense into the Girls State Tournament, Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
Sacred Heart faces 14th Region champion Knott County Central (20-7) Wednesday at 11 a.m.
“It’s just a natural look on my face,” said Ralston after the Valkyries (21-7) beat Central in the Seventh Region Championship last week. “I’m very serious when I’m in the game. I’m really emotional. So I’m really happy for my team.”
Ralston averages 12.6 points and a handful of assist for a Sacred Heart team that lost all but about eight points off last seasons regional champions. The. Valkyries played the last first round game of the Covid shortened tournament, losing to South Laurel 58-57. That SHA team finished 32-3.
Donna Moir coaching her eighth regional champion might have surprised some after losing all that offensive fire power. But not Moir who always prepares her team with a tough regular season schedule.
“It’s great that we get to go back because I didn’t like losing that last game at Rupp Arena,” said Moir. “Now we can make it where we don’t lose the last one. SHA has played everybody tough in losses to Bullitt East, Anderson County and Bardstown Bethlehem. One of its most impressive wins was over Ryle, 71-62, January 15. “This group is so special, so resultant,” said Moir. “I’m just so proud of them. I couldn’t be happier to get back to Rupp.”
Junior forwards Jose Gilvin 9.5 points and seven rebounds along with Alex Wolfe 7.6 points and 4.9 rebounds gives SHA a solid front court. Freshman Reagan Bender, Moir’s niece averages 9.7 points and can shoot the three. Senior Maggie Montano plays the point and can pass and set up other players.
Sacred Heart known for their offense turned to their defense in the post season allowing 32, 37 and 51 points in the regional.
Against previously unbeaten Central in the regional, SHA held the Lady Yellowjackets to 25 percent field goal shooting including one for nine from three point range.
“Everybody thought we’d be down this year,” said Moir. “But here we are going to Rupp.” Both Central and Manual were slight regional favorites.
Against Central, Sacred Heart fell behind 29-22, but that didn’t discourage this team. “We made some free throws. Made some big shots. It’s so awesome to be going back,” said Moir.
One of those big shots was a three in the last minute by Bender with 57 seconds and two foul shots with a few seconds remaining. Central had three shots in the final seconds but SHA’s defense prevailed.
“I’m just a freshman,” said Bender about going to state. “This is surreal. Really.”
Sacred Heart ranked fifth in the Associated Poll will open the tournament against the Lady Patriots. Coach Jeff Honeycutt’s team beat Letcher County Central, 86-79 in four overtimes in the Region championship.
A senior guard, Kera Mullins leads the Lady Patriots averaging 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. Sophomore Abby Maggard averages 11.5 while freshman Kylie Gayheart 9.2 points is the point guard. Sophomore Presley Fletcher scores 8.3 points and averages 4.1 rebounds.
“After last year, everyone thought we wouldn’t make it again,” said Ralston. “This year with all the freshman and everyone that came back we thought we had it.”
If SHA wins they will play the winner of Bowling Green-Bishop Brossart, Friday at 11 a.m.
“We’ve just got to work with each other,”said Ralston who plays with a chip on her shoulder. She dives for loose balls and uses her quickness to her advantage. “We’re really strong.”
If you were wondering Knott County Central is located in Hindman, Kentucky in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and is 129 miles from Lexington. According to Google it takes approximately 2 hours 34 minutes to get to Rupp Arena.
The Patriots have 562 students in grades 9-12.
A strong 14th Region team the Lady Patriots ranks 25th in scoring averaging 61.9 points a game. A good shooting team Knott County Central averages 45.3 from the field and 36.1 from three point range which is 16th. It shoots free throws at a 71.9 percent clip which is 13th according to the KHSAA.
More numbers…..Sacred Heart ranks 12th in scoring offense with a 64 point average and shoots 43.7 from the field which is 22nd. It’s three point shooting ranks 30th, 33.3. Defense ranks 29th giving up 43 points a game.
The Valkyries played three regional champions during the season. Anderson County, Bethlehem and Bullitt East.