April 12th, 2021

Sacred Heart Rises to the Occasion


Ed Peak

Staff Writer

Sacred Heart Rises to the Occasion
Photo by Samantha Stallings

 It’s a cliche that fits. Teams adapt their coaches personalities. Donna Bender Moir was a 14 year old freshman on the Sacred Heart varsity basketball team that won the schools first state championship.


Moir was a spunky shooting guard who played with reckless abandon for legendary coach Bunny Dougherty. Moir never seemed to lose her cool, her patience. She loved to shoot. She loved playing the game and her family enjoyed watching her.


Moir, an avid golfer who has won several amateur titles, went on to play basketball and golf at The University of Cincinnati. “I was one of the last two sport athletes there,” said Moir recently. 


She returned to Louisville where at the young age of 25 she was offered the head coaching position at Sacred Heart. Some 30 years later, four state championships, two national coaching awards and 701 wins, Moir is among the states elite.

She admits as a young coach she wondered if she was doing things right. The competition in the Seventh Region was fierce. Manual, Male, Mercy (now in the Sixth) and Central this season. Throw rival Assumption in the mix and you get the idea.


This Sacred Heart team once it got to the post season had been through a lot of tough close losses against some of the states best. 


A one point loss to No. 1 Anderson County on a banked three point basket was a dagger. Close losses to Bardstown, Bullitt East, Bethlehem, Cooper and Butler in the Louisville Invitational Tournament semifinals taught the Valkyries some lessons.


An impressive run in the regional with wins over Manual and a come from behind win over an unbeaten Central team proved to be a spring board.


The thing that impressed me about Mood in speaking with Moir, she never openly criticized a player and her team never criticized a teammate.


Moir says she used a break toward the end of the season after a canceled game she had over two weeks to prepare for the district. “We went back and worked on fundamentals and that really helped us,” said Moir.


Wins over Knott County Central, Bowling Green, a tough hard earned win over Anderson County in the semifinals and the 49-47 victory over Marshall County.


Trailing by three points midway through the fourth quarter, sophomore Triniti Ralston who fouled shooting a three pointer.


She calmly stepped to the line and with about hesitation tied the game at 47-47. Alex Wolff’s rebound basket gave the Valkyries a two point lead.


Sacred Heart with their height and length were a pretty good defensive team most of the year. Josie Gilvin had a big blocked shot of the Marshall’s Jada Driver with eight seconds. 

After a missed free throw by Gilvin, Marshall County had a chance and with 2.5 seconds. A pass near mid court intended for Conner was knocked out of bounds and she fell to the floor. A television replay looked like the defender went over the top to knock the ball away. The Marshall’s couldn’t get off a shot with 0.2 and the celebration began.


The players jumped in a circle and Moir jumped in to celebrate for a few minutes. Moir often wondered if her team would get back to the finals. Because of injuries and bad luck, Sacred Heart lost in the opening round in its last three state appearances.


The Catholic school on Lexington Road joined an elite group with five titles which ties the state record shared by Ashland, Laurel County and Butler.


“We talked about defense winning championships” said Moir. “When we got the timeouts we talked about stops and getting rebounds.That’s pretty tough to hold a team like that the last three minutes (scoreless).”


“It feels amazing,” said Gilvin. “It feels best when you have the best people next to you, always cheering you on, even if their not playing. They’re always looking out for you.”


Gilvin had four points, five assist, eight rebounds, five blocks and five steals. Ralston had 18 points and Wolff 10 were also named to the All-Tournament Team.


Moir said this team was different than the three in a row the Valkyries won in 2002-2004. “The teams we had in 2002 thought 2004 were dominate team,” said Moir. “We knew we had the best team and just tried not to screw it up. This team we had to work for it.”


With Montano the only senior the Valkyries return plenty of power. At one time SHA had three freshman on the floor in the tournament. They were a young team that peaked at the right time.


Next season SHA will be a solid favorite to win title six. 


Chances are Moir and her players will go about it like they always do. They won’t get rattled as a team and will play “like family.’” 


It works for Sacred Heart.


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