Hamilton Southeastern High School junior guard Sydney Parrish was already drawing national attention.
The 6-foot-2 guard, ranked No. 11 nationally in the 2020 national recruiting class by ESPN, is weighing offers from Tennessee, South Carolina, UCLA, Maryland, Indiana, Iowa and Oregon.
Parrish enhanced her status by scoring 30 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in leading Hamilton Southeastern to its first state title in girls basketball, topping Lawrence North 55-44 Feb. 23 in the Class 4A state championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“I haven’t seen any better in this state. She’s that good,” Hamilton Southeastern coach Chris Huppenthal said. “We play the best competition in the state. She doesn’t always put up 30 points, but she puts up a lot of points.”
The Royals finished 27-1, previously beating visiting Lawrence North 56-45 Jan. 15. Their only loss was to Ryle (Ky.) High School.
“This is affirmation of how good our kids are, how good the program is,” Huppenthal said. “It’s just wonderful for them, wonderful for the community. The support we got throughout the course of the tournament was great.”
The Royals have had several successful seasons, but prior to this year had only reached one semistate. That was in 2006.
“It’s a group of kids that have great character,” said Huppenthal, who has a 249-76 in his 14 seasons as coach. “They’re selfless. They enjoy being together.”
For Parrish, it was a dream come true.
“I couldn’t ask for a better season, a better senior class and a better team,” Parrish said. “We love each other on and off the court.”
Senior Tayah Irvin, who will play for Northern Kentucky next season, said it was a special feeling.
“It’s definitely been great to be able create history with these girls,” Irvin said. “We put in hard work from the summer because you can’t just start the week before (the season). You have to build up to it. To be the first team to make it this far is amazing.”
Trailing Lawrence North by three points, the Royals used a 13-0 run to take a 47-37 lead in the fourth quarter. Parrish, who scored 11 in the fourth quarter, was encouraged by her teammates to take over the game.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats were hampered by the loss of a key player.
“We had a player (Lauren Gunn) that has played 28 to 30 minutes a game going down with a knee injury (in the third quarter),” Lawrence North Coach Chris Giffin said. “We were told she couldn’t go back in. That was a significant injury to us both offensively and defensively. It is what it is. They were certainly deserving of the state championship. They played unbelievably well. They made more plays down the stretch than we did.”
It was the Wildcats’ (22-7) first appearance in a girls basketball state title game. Lawrence North lost in the semistate in 2014 and 2015.
“I’m really proud of the girls and the staff. I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything,” Giffin said. “They fought throughout the year. We had some adversity within games and, ultimately, had a little more adversity than we could overcome (against HSE). It certainly wasn’t for a lack of toughness, grit or effort or anything like that.”
Lawrence North’s Maddie Howe, the team’s only senior, was awarded the Mental Attitude Award for Class 4A. Howe, ranked 26th academically out of 679 students in her class, plans to study business analytics at Xavier University.