“Mad dog” defense gets Holy Cross to All “A” finals

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When “Mad Dog” is shouted out from the Holy Cross bench, the opponent better start worrying.

It was a half court trapping defense Ted Arlinghaus and his staff picked up at a coaches clinic from Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz.

“When Jeff Walz put that on and he specifically showed that, I turned to both of our coaches during the coaches clinics and said, ‘This is who we are.'” Arlinghaus said. “We weren’t great at it the beginning of the year. But the more we practiced it and we developed more and more, they’re starting to get really good at it. It always helps when you can have Nejai Lewis and Julia Hunt on the back line to when things go wrong, they can clean up a lot of sins.”

The “mad dog” defense worked wonders once again, and has the Indians in the All “A” Classic state championship after a 48-32 victory over Pikeville on Saturday morning, another early bird special for Holy Cross with their third 8:30 a.m. start this week.

“We’ve won three of them so maybe we want another 8:30 game tomorrow. It’s different. But we’ve been trying to be very diligent about going through the same routine every day. Get up the same time with breakfast the same time. Leave the same time. Luckily, it’s been pretty cold in the mornings so I think it wakes us up pretty well once we walk out the door,” Arlinghaus said. “But it will be nice to sleep in a little bit tomorrow.”

They’ll get a chance for some sleep now, Sunday’s championship not until noon as they look for their second All “A” state title in program history. The 2015 team that won the All “A”, also won the KHSAA state championship that season.

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“Holy Cross is rich in tradition. We state every year our first goal every season is to win that All “A” regional to get us a chance to compete at the All “A” state and then when the state gets there just the chips will fall where they fall. This is only our program’s second time being in the state finals,” Arlinghaus said.

They’ll continue to keep things light, having been in Richmond since Tuesday night in preparations for their first game on Wednesday. Being able to watch their counterparts in the boys tournament helps too.

“It feels like we’ve been down here a month,” Arlinghaus said. “Luckily the boys team has been down here too. We’re a family. The Holy Cross community…we’re a family. We’re gonna be here cheering the boys team on, they’ve been here cheering us on. The one thing about this team is they are the loosest bunch. This team truly does have phenomenal team chemistry. We haven’t had any issues and that just makes makes life for me and coaching staff a heck of a lot easier to do.”

The defense did it again on Saturday, holding Pikeville to 12-of-50 from the field. Anytime the Panthers were able to crack the Indians defense, Julia Hunt would be waiting in the paint. The result…five blocked shots to go with her nine points and 15 rebounds.

Hunt is a volleyball standout, the junior committed to University of Washington for her excellence with the white ball. As far as the round brown ball? It correlates between the two.

“I feel like it’s so much easier. All of the other volleyball players that I’ve talked to that also play basketball, they’re like, ‘Yeah, you can just see the ball so well.’ It’s like hitting a wide ball over the net except you’re obviously hitting it either out of bounds or down the court,” Hunt said.

Aleah Arlinghaus, who came in averaging 6.5 points per game, paced Holy Cross with 14 points. She drained a couple of 3-pointers to get her and the Indians offense going.

“It’s big for me to score 14. I’m usually the distributor and playmaker. Each game we a different one of us steps up and is the leading point scorer and that’s the best thing about our team,” Arlinghaus said.

After Holy Cross held a 13-9 edge after one, defense. And more defense.

Pikeville was held to two points in the second, Holy Cross taking a 22-11 lead into the break.

More defense. Nearly six minutes went by before Pikeville was able to crack the scoring column in the third, Holy Cross able to extend the lead to 32-13 by that time.

Pikeville was unable to get any closer than 14 from there. Standout guard Trinity Rowe was held to eight points, second leading scorer Kyera Thornsbury held to four points. The two came in averaging 14.5 and 10 points per game, respectively. Kristen Whited led Pikeville with 10 points.

Nejai Lewis added seven points and nine rebounds for Holy Cross. Eight different players scored as they held a 39-25 rebounding edge and were able to overcome committing 19 turnovers.

Bethlehem defeated Whitefield Academy, 76-43 in the other semifinal to set up Sunday’s showdown. The Banshees won the All “A” Classic championship in 2020 & ’21.

PIKEVILLE — 9-2-6-15 — 32

HOLY CROSS — 13-9-14-12 — 48

Pikeville (32) – Whited 10, Rowe 8, Alvin 6, Thornsbury 4, Jackson 4

Holy Cross (48) – Arlinghaus 14, Hunt 9, Lewis 7, Hayes 5, Wimzie 4, Williams 4, Bottom 3, Nelson 2

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