CATHOLIC FIGHTING IRISH
FAIR GROVE — One year after going 16-9, the Catholic girls’ basketball team is looking forward to a breakout season under head coach Jacob Morlan.
The team opened the season with a runaway win over Aurora, then suffered heartbreak, as Clever 2020 guard Allison Clevenger nailed a game-winning 3 against the Lady Irish in the opening round of the Fair Grove Tournament, but Morlan says his squad will bounce back strong this week.
“I thought we played really hard and did a lot of good things,” Morlan said. “Clever is very long and athletic which is kind of the opposite of who we are, it was a contrast in styles in what they do and what we do. We did a lot of the right things and it just didn’t fall our way.
“You can’t leave girls like Clevenger open at the end … that is why she is going to be a college basketball player, she steps up and hits big shots.”
Catholic is both young and small across the board, but is skilled and plays well together. The team is playing three juniors, a senior and four freshmen in its primary rotation.
“The freshmen play a lot and a couple of them are getting quite a few starts,” Morlan said. “We spread it out and they can all play — they are skilled, can dribble, pass and shoot. It is going to be a balanced look with three or four kids hitting a lot of shots instead of the superstars with one or two kids carrying the offensive effort.”
Morlan said 2019 guards Lilly Edwards (5’6) and Lindsey Murphy (5’7) have taken big strides as players throughout the offseason. They combined to average about 15 points per game a year ago, according to Morlan, and have stepped up this season.
“Lilly has really expanded her game and is doing a lot, from running the point offensively and defensively,” Morlan said. “And Lindsey has had to step up offensively and be a shot maker and be a big leader on the court.
“Those juniors have really had to step up and be leaders and pull those freshmen along because we are going to need the freshmen if we are going to be successful.”
At times it appears Catholic is running five points on the court at the same time as its roster boasts similar skill sets and abilities. On Tuesday, 5’6 senior Addyson Wilguis scored seven points, while 5’7 senior Olivia Wilson led the Irish with 12 points. Edwards added seven and Murphy scored nine.
Freshmen Emily Franklin hit a pair of 3s and Samantha Messerly added nine.
“We don’t have any traditional bigs or even any tall, athletic guards, so in practice and all summer we worked on ball handling, passing and shooting and less on Xs and Os,” Morlan said. “We run a lot of motion, with pass, cut screen and everybody has to step up and hit shots.”
Morlan says the team has shown the ability to defend, using pressure defense and making the first shot by an opponent a tough one. The challenge has been what happens once a shot is missed.
“We have to find a way to get stops by finishing defensive possessions with rebounds,” he said. “With our lack of size it has been tough. We have gotten better since the summer, but boxing out and going and chasing loose balls is a big key.”