The Irish limited the Raiders' offense and forced numerous turnovers in a 67-54 win.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
WARREN -- Two weeks ago, Ursuline High girls basketball coach Sean Durkin knew two things about his team.
His offense was fine and his defense wasn't.
So for the past two weeks, the Irish have used their practice time to work on their defense, and the results are beginning to show.
The visiting Irish held Warren Harding to 43 percent shooting from the field (19-for-44) and forced 23 Raiders' turnovers in a 67-54 win Thursday night.
"We like where we are offensively," Durkin said. "We just need to keep getting better defensively. In the tournament, if you can play great defense, you can cause a lot of problems."
Leaders: Junior Christina Cook had 12 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Irish (15-5, 6-2 Steel Valley Conference).
Mahogani Graves scored 13 points, Courtney Davidson had 12 and Cathie Walsh added 11.
Ursuline is the top seed in the Division III tournament at United, and will play either East Palestine or Mineral Ridge next Thursday.
"We have some big dreams and hopes for the tournament," Graves said. "We wanted to end the season on a good note."
Harding stayed close for much of the first half, trailing 18-15 after the first quarter and 38-38 at halftime. Raiders junior Sharina Freeman had 13 of her 15 points in the first half.
"[Christina Cook] did a real good job on Freeman," Graves said. "We thought the key in the game was to stop Freeman from driving and to keep her off the boards."
In control: Ursuline then held the Raiders (6-14, 1-7) to nine points in the third quarter. Harding never got within double digits after the opening minute of the second half.
"Harding is a very dangerous team to play for the last game of the season," Durkin said. "We looked sloppy at times, but at times our effort was really good. I was very happy with our defense in the third quarter."
Irish senior Sarah McKelvey had six assists, eight rebounds and three steals while Amber Miller added three steals.
Leigh Carlson scored 20 points to lead the Raiders. Freeman added five rebounds and five steals.
"I think we've played our best basketball lately," Harding coach P.J. Notar said. "We didn't rebound like we could have and got killed on second-chance opportunities."
Last one: It was the last regular season game for Notar, who is stepping down after the season. Harding plays Massillon Perry at Saturday's Division I tournament at Alliance.
"I've been coaching here for nine years as an assistant as a head coach, so I'm sure there's gonna be a lot of emotions," Notar said.
"This place has been very nice to me. I have a lot of fond memories, but it's time for a change. It's a better move for the girls program."