The Lady Aces are in uncharted territory. After stunning Scott County 62-51 in the quarterfinals, Owensboro Catholic is headed to their first ever Final Four in the KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament.
The Lady Aces (29-7) rode a 23-point, 15-rebound outing by Hannah McKay to get past the Cardinals (34-2), who spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the state. They’ll face Ryle (31-5), also a first-time semifinalist, at 6:30 p.m. EST Saturday.
Head coach Michael Robertson, who was fist-pumping and yelling throughout Friday’s game, had nothing but praise for the resiliency his team showed.
“I can’t say enough about these girls,” he said. “They have bought into what the coaching staff has wanted all year long. They might not have liked everything we’ve had to say or do or push, but they’ve got a lot of heart. They gave it all to me today.”
For the second game in a row, Owensboro Catholic prevailed despite being outrebounded and losing the turnover battle. Defense was key.
Scott County averaged nearly 80 points per game this year and won by an average of 30 points. Robertson thought if they could hold the Cardinals to 50 or less, the Lady Aces had a good chance.
“We did our job,” he said. “We limited them. I think our length bothered them. We are pretty big, and I think it bothers a lot of people.”
Catholic held Scott County to 3-of-16 from the field in the second quarter, and then locked down again to hold the Cardinals to 3-of-20 in the fourth. In a game of runs, those stretches proved vital.
“I told them it was going to come down to defense,” Robertson said. “Our defense, I think, is our staple.”
The Cardinals started the game with a quick 6 points and forced a Catholic timeout. Mackenzie Keelin and Sarah Beth Clemens both knocked down 3-pointers to tie it up, and it was neck-and-neck the rest of the way.
The Lady Aces took their first lead on another 3-pointer by Clemens, putting her team up 23-22 with 4:15 left in the second quarter. Catholic pushed the lead to as much as 7 points before heading into halftime up 30-25.
The Cardinals fought to get back in it to start the third, going in front 31-32 on a 3-pointer midway through the frame. They maintained at least a share of the lead and held a 45-44 advantage going into the final eight minutes.
McKay took over in the fourth, and her layup in the first minute gave the Lady Aces the lead for good. The McKay-Clemens duo dominated the paint down the stretch, and the Cardinals had no answer for their size.
“I think they were leaving us open,” Clemens said of the two bigs helping put the game out of reach. “They were pressuring our guards and trying to keep the ball away from them, so we both had to step up and take the ball at the top. Coach Michael told us whenever they come up and guard us, just go around them, and that’s what we did.”
Clemens finished with 16 points, hitting all four of her 3-point attempts. Keelin added 12 points, with 7 in the first half.
Robertson is excited to make it to the semifinals for the first time, but the Lady Aces aren’t ready to go home.
“We want more than that,” he said. “We’re going to keep battling and see what happens.”
Scott Co. 17-8-20-6–51
Catholic: Hannah McKay 23, Sarah Beth Clemens 16, Mackenzie Keelin 12, Isabella Henning 5, Spencer Harvey 2, Madelyn Lyon 2, Ally Maggard 2
Scott Co.: Morgan DeFoor 20, Maaliya Owens 11, Juliette Smith 11, Malea Williams 5, Kenady Tompkins 2, Kaylie Wise 2