Since a successful volleyball season ended, Catholic Central senior Kellie O’Connor hasn’t had much to smile about when she leaves the gym.
The losses have mounted — 12 in a row — for the Catholic Central girls basketball team. But the streak ended Tuesday when the Irish held on to defeat Yellow Springs 40-36. And O’Connor was all smiles as she carried her gym bag across the floor.
“It feels really great,” O’Connor said after leading the Irish with 22 points. “We’ve been working hard. Our program hasn’t been the strongest the past few years, so we want to prove that our program shouldn’t be looked down upon, that we do have talent on our team and that we can show others that we’re a team to compete against.”
The Irish (3-12) led Yellow Springs (6-12) most of the game, but the Bulldogs tied the score three times in the fourth quarter before finally taking a 35-34 lead with 2:40 left on a basket by Liz Smith. After O’Connor made a free throw to tie, Sierra Hannon made her second big jumper along the baseline to put the Irish up for good at 37-35.
The Bulldogs used full-court pressure and traps to rally from a seven-point halftime deficit and into the lead. Irish first-year coach Kim Jerger called a timeout in the fourth quarter in the midst of the flurry of loose balls, turnovers and fouls.
“When Coach called timeout we all looked at each other and knew we needed to think about what we were doing and gain our composure,” O’Connor said. “We’ve practiced these situations not to freak out in a tight game. We needed to prove that we could get this and that we were not going to stay on this losing streak.”
Jerger is trying to build a program that hasn’t had recent success with players across all four classes. He said in recent games he’s seen the team play better together and make strides on defense.
“We really brought it all together tonight and played from start to finish,” Jerger said. “Keeping our composure on the court, being able to see the floor and look down the court and take advantage of opportunities.”
The Bulldogs were coming off a close loss the night before to Xenia Christian. They attacked the basket well, especially in the second half, but made only 12 of 26 free throws for the game.
“We looked sluggish, we were a step slow to all the loose balls,” first-year coach Ralph Grant said. “But they battled, they did some good things.”
Grant, who coached at Cedarville the past 10 years, inherited a young team led by the sophomore Smith. She scored 17 points on a bothersome ankle and leads the Metro Buckeye Conference in scoring at 18 points per game.
“We’ve got some players that are starting to develop and understand the game a little bit more,” Grant said. “I knew we had some athletes. It’s just a matter of developing them into basketball players.”