Boys basketball: Irish roll past West Jefferson

Sabien Doolittle is hitting his stride at the perfect time — and that could be trouble for the remaining teams on the Catholic Central boys basketball schedule.

The senior scored a game-high 23 points as the Irish beat West Jefferson 66-54 in an Ohio Heritage Conference crossover division game on Friday night at Jason Collier Gymnasium.

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Senior Mykah Eichie scored 19 points, while teammate Trey Dunn added 10 for the Irish, who improved to 11-2 and 8-2 in the Ohio Heritage Conference South Division. The Irish’s all-senior starting five — including Jayden Borden (nine points) and Peyton Harris (five points) — were the only players to score for Catholic Central.

“Our guys played really hard and played really well,” said Irish coach Cody Sarensen. “Our boys really competed tonight. We were resilient.”

West Jefferson senior Ben Casey had a game-high 25 points and teammate Trent Kincade added 15 points, hitting four 3-pointers for the Roughriders (11-3, 8-2 OHC North). West Jefferson entered the game having won nine of its last 10 games, including a four-game winning streak.

Doolittle, a Division IV All-Ohio Honorable Mention selection last season, has been struggling in recent weeks, he said. He scored three points in the Irish’s loss to Fairbanks on Jan. 4.

Since that game, Doolittle is averaging 20.6 points and 10.0 rebounds — all Irish victories. The key has been taking better shots and learning his role in the offense, he said. He was quick to give credit to his teammates for stepping up against a strong Roughriders squad, one of the few teams to beat the Irish a year ago.

“Earlier this week, Coach told me he needed me to step up,” Doolittle said. “I’ve been in a bit of a slump here and there and my numbers have dropped a little bit. I’ve been telling Coach I was going to step up. It’s my senior year, my last go-round and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”

Throughout the game, the Central student section held up a giant cardboard cutout of Doolittle’s face when he was five years old. The Irish seniors all got one, Doolittle said, but his mom Wendy opted to use one of his Kindergarten photos as a joke.

“It’s awesome,” Doolittle said. “My Mom is my biggest fan for sure. My family is so tight knit and they’ve always been there for me.”

The Irish students had plenty to cheer about. Central jumped out to a 25-16 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Roughriders went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to three. In the final minute, the Irish went on an 8-2 run, including a 3-pointer by Doolittle and a buzzer-beater by Borden to take a 33-24 lead at the break.

Central led by double-digits for most of the second half. The Roughriders cut the lead to eight in the final minute, but couldn’t get any closer. Central went 11-for-14 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Central is two games up in the South Division behind both Southeastern (7-6, 6-4) and Cedarville (6-7, 6-4). The Irish travel to Triad (0-15, 0-10) in its final game against the OHC North Division this season.

“It’s going to be tough,” Sarensen said. “They always come ready to play. Jason Malone does a great job over there. It’s a long road trip and we have to be ready for that.”

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