Peyton Harris placed his thumb and index finger together and lifted his other three fingers into the air, playing to the Catholic Central High School student section.
After making his fifth 3-pointer of the game, the Irish senior had to pay homage to his older brother, former Ohio State University forward Ivan Harris.
“He taught me that tradition from Day 1,” Peyton Harris said. “We would play 1-on-1 in the backyard, he’d hit 3s on me and back up and (throw up three fingers). I had to do it tonight.”
Harris had a career-high 25 points as the Irish beat Kenton Ridge 64-58 in the season opener on Friday night at Jason Collier Gymnasium. He hit his first five 3-pointers and went 4-for-5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to help Catholic Central seal its first win of the season.
“I was shocked and surprised, but I kept on hitting them with confidence,” Harris said.
Irish senior Trey Dunn added 22 points and senior Sabien Doolittle added 11 for the Irish.
Catholic Central hit 10 3-pointers in the game, including three by Doolittle and two from Dunn. Kenton Ridge was one of the few teams to beat the Irish a year ago, making the win even sweeter for the Irish seniors.
“We’re playing really good team ball, moving the ball and running — that’s what we do best,” Dunn said. “As long as we keep doing that, I think we’ll be successful.”
The Cougars focused their attention on returning leading scorer Doolittle early in the game, which opened up the floor for Harris, who had 18 points in the first half.
“With the guys we put on the court, that can happen to any one of them on any given night,” Sarensen said.
Kenton Ridge junior post player Tyler Eberhart had a career-high 29 points. The Cougars continually fed the 6-foot-7 Eberhart and 6-foot-8 junior Collin Perkins in the paint, taking a 19-12 midway early in the second quarter.
At that point, the Irish switched to a zone defense, challenging the Cougars to shoot the basketball. The Irish got tired defending in the post and a few players got two quick fouls, meaning the Irish had to to make a change defensively, Sarensen said.
“We still have to figure things out, what works best offensively, defensively,” Sarensen said. “Our guys are so resilient. I love that about them.”
Catholic Central outscored the Cougars 19-8 the rest of the quarter to take a 31-27 halftime lead.
It took some time for the Cougars to figure out the Irish zone, said Kenton Ridge Kris Spriggs.
“I’ll give my kids credit, we kept fighting and fighting and fighting,” Spriggs said. “When you work so hard (to come back), a lot of things have to go your way, a bounce here, a shot there. You’ve got to give Catholic Central credit, they made big shots and hit free throws down the stretch.”
The Irish led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, but a 7-0 Cougars run capped by a three-point play from Eberhart cut the lead to 47-40.
The final three minutes were played at a frenzied pace as the Cougars continually pressed to inch their way back into the game. KR cut the lead to six with 10 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get any closer as the Irish made 18-of-22 free throws in the game and 9-of-13 in the fourth quarter.
“As many bone-headed mistakes as we made down the stretch there, I had all the faith in our team because I knew being with them the last three years how competitive they are,” Sarensen said.