Girls Basketball: Catholic Central seeks first OHC title

Catholic Central High School senior Abbigail Peterson dribbles the ball during a scrimmage game against Houston on Monday, Nov. 16 at Jason Collier Gymnasium in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED
Catholic Central High School senior Abbigail Peterson dribbles the ball during a scrimmage game against Houston on Monday, Nov. 16 at Jason Collier Gymnasium in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Irish have finished second the last two seasons

SPRINGFIELD — The Catholic Central High School girls basketball program had plenty of motivation to improve this offseason.

The Irish haven’t forgotten the final game they played at Jason Collier Gymnasium last winter. Catholic Central led Greenon by four points with 30 seconds remaining, but saw the Knights send the game to overtime and eventually earn a 62-52 victory, claiming the outright Ohio Heritage Conference South Division title.

“It pushed us during the offseason,” said senior guard Abbigail Peterson. “We thought a lot about that game so we can come back stronger.”

The Irish have finished second in the OHC South each of the last two seasons. This year, they want to do something the girls program has never done since joining the league in 2001 — win an OHC title.

“It definitely didn’t end like we wanted it to,” said Irish coach Brandon Peterson. “We learned a lot. We’re still a young team. We want to put ourselves in the same position we’ve had the last two years. We’ve had a chance for the championship and fell short both years. We’re trying to get ourselves back there again.”

The Irish went 17-7 last year and returns close to their entire team from last season, including Abbigail Peterson, who averaged 15.0 points and 4.0 assists. She was named All-Ohio Honorable Mention in 2019.

Juniors Mallory Mullen (13.0 points, 12.1 rebounds per game), Serenity Castle (10.0 points, 3.3 assists pg) and Meghan Foster (3.5 assists, 3.3 steals pg) also return to the Irish starting lineup.

The Irish will start the season without senior Lizzie Bruce, who injured her foot during the fall soccer season. Freshman Jordyn Smoot will take Bruce’s place in the lineup.

The offseason was a little bit different than previous seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Irish weren’t able to compete in summer camps, but spent more time conditioning outdoors.

“We’ve taken advantage of the outdoors,” Brandon Peterson said. “We got in here as much as possible, we were trying to rely on conditioning. It was kind of a benefit for us. It gave us more access to go outside and run, especially during those July and August months.”

The cancellation of spring sports was especially difficult for Mullen, who won the D-III high jump as a freshman in 2019, but wasn’t able to defend her title last spring.

“It was really tough for me,” she said. “I’ve been practicing a lot, even during the quarantine without a coach. I’ve been working at it a lot.”

The 5-11 post player spent the offseason playing AAU basketball and played volleyball this fall to get back on the court, she said. Mullen worked on improving her outside game to go with an already strong post game.

“I’m trying to be more aggressive and physical, trying to shoot more and get better at every spot, not just in the post,” Mullen said.

The Irish expect another challenging slate in the OHC South this year, especially from defending champion Greenon.

“They’ve got our number, so they’re still at the top of the radar for us,” Brandon Peterson said. “Mechanicsburg and West Liberty are still going to be super tough. We just try to build off some of last year’s defeats and see if we can improve.”

The Irish have challenged themselves during the preseason, including scrimmages against Wayne, Trotwood and Tecumseh.

“We’ve tried to bolster our offseason so we can see the best of the best,” Brandon Peterson said.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Abbigail Peterson, Catholic Central: The senior and D-II Arkansas Monticello signee averaged 15.0 points and 4.0 assists per game last fall.

Terah Harness, Tecumseh: The senior and D-I South Carolina Upstate signee averaged 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last year.

Claire Henry, Greenon: The do-it-all sophomore point guard averaged 8.5 points and 2.5 steals for the OHC South champion Knights last winter.

Mackenzie Chinn, Tecumseh: The sophomore averaged 10 points, 5.4 steals and 4.0 assists for the Arrows last winter.

Mallory Mullen, Catholic Central: The junior led the OHC in field goal percentage last winter at 59.2 percent, averaging double-digits in both points (13.0) and rebounds (12.1).

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