Irish stopped by Champion
Ursuline seniors see careers end
CHAMPION — By halftime of its Division III district semifinal against Champion on Wednesday night, the Ursuline girls basketball team had to feel pretty comfortable with the way things had unfolded.
The fifth-seeded Fighting Irish appeared to have their way inside early, using strength and finesse in and around the paint. They led 15-12 after one quarter and extended the lead to 20-13 early in the second period.
But the fourth-seeded Golden Flashes responded. They tied the game at 29 by halftime and never trailed in the second half as they held on to win, 58-54.
“This is a tough one because we have five seniors and four of them are starters and they expected to win tonight and play for a district championship,” said Ursuline coach Mike Kernan, whose team finished 11-9. “They’ve been together since fourth or fifth grade. They put a lot into the Ursuline basketball program and each of them will be missed greatly.”
The combination of senior Anisah Moorman and sophomore Alayna Smith bodied up well against Champion’s Brooke Whitt and Emma Gumont.
Moorman and Smith tallied 16 points apiece. Moorman had 10 points at intermission and was slowed by the Flashes in the second half. Smith had eight points in each half.
Champion closed the first half on a 16-9 surge to knot the score, with Whitt scoring six of her nine points during that span and Gumont logging seven of her game-high 19 points.
The Golden Flashes carried that momentum into the second half and sprung a 12-2 run right out of the gate to assume a 43-31 cushion.
“We’ve been a good third-quarter team all season long,” Champion coach Michael Cole said. “We finally started making some shots and that made it easier. From there, we made enough key plays when it got tight and made just enough free throws to hang on.”
Junior Lorinda Dodrill made a pair of her four 3-pointers in that third quarter for the Flashes, who outscored Ursuline 21-9 from 3-point range and also had a 13-3 cushion from the foul line.
Moorman’s old-fashioned three-point play and a 3-pointer from Lily Scott heped the Irish pull within 46-37 emtering the fourth quarter. When Cara McNally nailed a 3-pointer seconds into the fourth quarter, the Irish began making up ground. Layups by Smith and Rachel Fabry and a putback from McNally got Ursuline within 47-46 midway through the period.
“We could feel it and we knew we had a chance,” Kernan said. “These kids fought to the end. We came back and had a nice chance toward the end, but never got the one critical bucket to tie it up or give us the lead back. You could tell (Champion) felt our presence until the very end. Our girls did a great job of sticking with it.”
A Dodrill 3-pointer and a layup from freshman Bella Meyer gave Champion a little breathing room, but the Flashes couldn’t pull away due to poor free-throw shooting. The Flashes went 3-for-9 in the period until the final 30 seconds when Ava Howell went 3-for-4. They finished 13-for-27 overall and 6-for-13 in the quarter.
Ursuline was 3-for-5 at the stripe.
Scott finished with eight points and McNally had seven.
For Champion, Dodrill netted 14 points and Meyer added 10.
“They executed a little better than us on offense and even defensively,” Kernan said. “We hurt them with some of our defensive pressure, but then they started beating it and scoring, so we had a back that off a bit so we didn’t give up as many layups and open shots. Defensively, they got their hands on a lot of balls. They did good job on deflections and steals. We had a couple too many turnovers.
“The combination of us not executing on so many good looks and them converting on so many of their chances really caught up with us. That was the difference.”
In the district championship, Champion (10-5) will play at Garfield on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s final.