Never before have the Lady Aces made it past the quarterfinals of the girls’ basketball state tournament. They’ll have a chance to finally break through when they play Scott County Friday morning at Rupp Arena.
Owensboro Catholic head coach Michael Robertson is hoping to get to the next level but knows his team will have to come out focused.
“It means a lot to get back to the quarters,” he said. “It means we are back in the Elite 8, but we want to take that next step. We will have to play 32 minutes and play smart.”
In their storied history, Owensboro Catholic has made the Sweet 16 a total of seven times. They lost in the first round each time in 1985, 1986 and 2011. Since Robertson took the helm seven years ago, the Lady Aces have advanced to the quarterfinals in their latest four appearances — 2013, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
It took all they had to make it back to the second round, but Owensboro Catholic (28-7) gutted out a 53-47 win over Bethlehem on Tuesday. Scott County (34-1) easily rolled past Knott County Central in the game preceding the Lady Aces’ win.
Robertson said he didn’t get a chance to scout the Cardinals because he was trying to focus on leading his team to a victory.
“I didn’t watch one second of that game,” he said. “I was a nervous wreck. I just walked around and tried to keep myself calm.”
Scott County was led by Maaliya Owens, who hit six 3-pointers on scored 30 points. Morgan Defoor added 21 and Juliette Smith scored 14. They applied heavy pressure on defense and pushed the pace the entire game.
“They will want to run the whole time and we need to take care of the ball and make sure we make them work on the defensive end,” Robertson said.
The Lady Aces will have to clean up their offense after a slow start against Bethlehem. Catholic struggled from the field early and ended the game with 19 rebounds. Their defense, though, helped keep them in the game until they were finally able to pull away.
They were able to rely on the same trio that has carried the team all year long, as Mackenzie Keelin, Hannah McKay and Sarah Beth Clemens combined for 39 points. Catholic also got 14 points off the bench to help get a victory.
The Lady Aces and Cardinals had three common opponents this season. Scott County posted double-digit wins over Walton-Verona, DuPont Manual and Simon Kenton. Catholic lost to both DuPont Manual and Simon Kenton, but beat Walton-Verona in the championship of the All “A” Classic state tournament.
Their run in the All “A” Classic provided some key wins for the Lady Aces. It was part of an 11-game win streak that ended with a loss to Webster County on Feb. 9. Since then, Catholic has won another eight in a row.
Robertson is ready to make it nine, and make some history in the process. Grinding out a win in a less-than-perfect game gives Robertson confidence going forward.
“It meant a lot to me (to get the win),” he said. “This is big time here. This is Rupp Arena, so this is great. I’m glad these girls got the opportunity. I think they’re really going to cherish this.”