By Pete Mollica
YOUNGSTOWN — The Ursuline High girls basketball team plays defense as well as anyone in the area, but the Irish have to get their offense under control if they want to start winning.
Ursuline (0-2) shot 34 percent from the field and just 40 percent from the free throw line as they suffered their second straight defeat at the hands of Massillon Perry, 41-39, Thursday night,
The Irish’s full-court pressing defense had the Panthers scrambling the entire game, forcing 32 turnovers, but their efforts at the other end of the floor was the reason for the loss.
“We definitely had our opportunities,” said Ursuline coach Sean Durkin. “We had the momentum, missed some big free throws and then we were in foul trouble at the end.
“We felt going into the season that we had the depth with nine or 10 players we could keep rotating, but in both of our first two games that nine or 10 was down to six after the first quarter with three players with two fouls,” he said.
“If the fouls were coming because of our press I could accept that, but most of them have been down the floor when we were out of position,” he added.
The Irish held a three-point lead with 3:36 remaining in the contest, 38-35, but they didn’t score another point until just 42 seconds were left, missing four shots, committing three turnovers and going 1-for-7 from the foul line over that span.
Perry’s Jasmyne Kirksay proved to be the thorn in the Irish’s side as she connected on two straight baskets to put the Panthers back on top 39-38 and made two free throws with 27.9 seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 41-39 edge.
Perry coach Mark Randuilc felt the turnovers was what kept the game close.
“It’s been feast or famine with us over the first three games,” he said. “We had just eight turnovers one night and then turn around and have 30 tonight.
“But give Ursuline’s press a lot of credit because they forced us into a lot of mistakes tonight,” he added. “We knew that if it came down to crunch time we were going to get the ball inside to our strength and fortunately we were able to do that.”
The Irish were led by sophomore Aurielle Irizarry with 13 points, but she also had a dozen steals in the contest, while sophomore Courtney Powell added nine points before she fouled out with 1:54 left in the game.
Kirksay led all scorers with 16 points, 12 of them in the second half.
The contest was a battle from start to finish with the scored tied 10 different times and four lead changes.
The two teams traded basket for basket in the opening quarter and Powell’s basket with three seconds left deadlocked the game at 10-10.
Perry held its biggest lead in the second quarter as they opened with 13-5 run to take a 23-15 advantage, but the Irish scored the final seven points to cut the gap to one point 23-22 at intermission.
Ursuline took just its second lead of the game midway through the third quarter on a free throw by Powell for a 28-27 advantage, but Perry regained it quickly on the next possession on a Kirksay basket and the quarter ended in a 31-31 deadlock.
Irizarry’s two quick buckets to open the final quarter put Ursuline back on top 35-33 and the Irish still led 38-35 with 3:36 remaining, but then scored just one point the rest of the way and Kirksay was the difference for the Panthers.