Sunday, January 28, 2018
Irish win two straight after slump
By Greg Gulas
With just two wins in 13 games entering Saturday’s boys’ basketball game against East High, Ursuline head coach Keith Gunter was hoping that one of his players would step up and provide the necessary leadership he has been hoping for all season.
R.J. Clark took note and answered Gunther’s wish in the first half, yielding to Shawn Phillips who took over the reins after intermission.
Clark scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the opening half, Phillips canned all five of his attempts from behind the arc – he connected on four triples after halftime – and Ursuline dialed long-distance 10 times overall as they stifled East, 52-35 at the Golden Bears Gymnasium.
It was their second straight win after a 1-11 start to their season.
“The key tonight was sticking to our game plan and playing as a team,” Clark said. “We let them shoot, but made sure that we hit the boards and rebounded at both ends of the court. When you give up a good shot for an even better shot, good things usually happen.”
With the score knotted 4-all at 4:08 of the opening period, Clark connected on two of his three triples, Devan Keevey added a charity toss and Ursuline (3-11) bolted to the early 11-4 advantage.
Clark’s third bucket from downtown and two free throws increased the Fighting Irish margin to 16-4 before a Tim Williams triple ended a 4:54 scoring drought for East (4-9) as they cut the deficit to 16-7.
Nine points by Clark in the second frame, and triples by both Devan Keevey and Phillips ended a 22-7 run by Ursuline as they opened a 28-13 lead before settling for a 28-18 halftime lead.
“We lost eight seniors and all five starters from last season and with the brutal schedule that we play, we were trying to find ourselves the first half of the season,” Gunther said. “It has been a process, but the great thing about playing a challenging schedule is that when you keep the kids positive and always encourage them, they begin to believe. When you so start winning, then it becomes contagious.”
The Golden Bears fell for the seventh straight time while Ursuline ran its modest win streak to two games, improving to 3-6 on the road.
“It has been fun to watch the players develop and move into their roles,” Gunther said. “A win like this will go a long way in building some momentum as we continue to get ready for tournament play next month.”
Two triples by Phillips in the third period gave Ursuline a 44-26 lead after three frames, adding two more bombs in the final stanza to help secure their 17 point victory.
“My teammates found me in the right spots and I had a good night offensively,” Phillips said. “Tonight it just happened to be me, next game it might be someone else and the next game someone else. We’re a very unselfish team.
“Staying focused on them was the key. We didn’t allow penetration and didn’t let them stand and shoot.”
Golden Bears head coach Dennis Simmons said a lack of consistency has been costly during their seven game slide.
“Every game it’s something different. We just haven’t been consistent,” Simmons said. “The last three games have been tough because we haven’t been able to put the ball in the hole from anywhere.”
East High’s Larry Ransom had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the games’ only double-double while Kemon’Dre Muhammad added 11 points to pace the Golden Bears.
Ursuline held a 30-29 rebound advantage with Keevey and Luke Pipala each hauling in seven rebounds.