Catholic Central, the No. 9 Division IV team in the state and the presumed best team in the Ohio Heritage Conference, had something to prove Tuesday night.
On Friday the Irish lost for the first since Dec. 1, falling at West Jefferson by 13 points. No one, most of all them, expected a loss.
»RELATED: High School scoreboard for Jan. 23
»RELATED: High School roundup for Jan. 23
“We came out lackadaisical,” said Irish junior Sabien Doolittle. “We came out thinking we were going to win, and it was another lesson we learned.”
Being ready to play Tuesday didn’t require extra motivation. Triad, winners of eight of its last night games, and high-scoring Hadley LeVan were in town. The Irish responded with a strong second half for a 64-56 victory.
“We talked about how great teams can take an L like that and bounce right back,” Doolittle said. “We wanted to show everybody that, although we lost last week, we’re still a good team and we’re going to keep working and strive to be great.”
Triad (10-4, 6-3 OHC North) led 31-30 at halftime behind five 3-pointers and 17 points from Briley Harlan. The Cardinals kept the lead early in the third quarter, but coach Jason Malone decided a zone defense might further slow down the Irish.
“We wanted to take away the driving lanes and make them beat us from the outside,” Malone said. “And they did.”
The Irish (12-2, 8-1 OHC South) were patient and Doolittle got hot with four 3-pointers from the corners and 18 of his 22 points in the second half. His first two 3-pointers and a putback pushed Central to a 42-38 lead with 3:13 left in the third. His next 3-pointer regained the lead at 45-44 early in the fourth, and his last made it 52-46 in the middle or a 14-2 run that pushed the lead to 59-46.
Trey Dunn and Peyton Harris added 12 points apiece for the Irish. And having senior post Jacob Woeber back in the lineup after a school trip to Ireland allowed Doolittle, who is 6-foot-2, to move to the perimeter.
“The second half of the season teams are starting to scout you so coach is allowing us to open up our game a little bit more,” Doolittle said. “Working a lot in practice on the guards shooting threes is really helping us out a lot and is going to help us finish off the season.”
Harlan boosted the Cardinals with 23 points, but the Irish never let LeVan get going. He scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half, but he had to work hard for them. Irish guards Mykah Eichie and Trey Brown kept LeVan from getting open shots from the 3-point line.
“Our biggest job was just trying to contain him as best as we can,” Central coach Cody Sarensen said. “For the most part, Mykah and Trey did a really nice job.”
A defense working hard to stop LeVan is nothing new to Malone. His senior star is averaging 26 points a game and scored 51 in a game this season. It was the defensive end where he said his team came up short.
“I said before the game if we were going to win in their gym, we were going to have to stop dribble penetration and rebound,” Malone said. “And we didn’t do a very good job at either one of those things.”