Girls basketball: Fletcher, Catholic suffer hard-fought setback
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Catholic girls basketball team went from one No. 1 to another in consecutive games with different results, even if the outcome was the same.
Still, there was reason to celebrate for the Irish - which has dealt with a multitude of injuries, the reported suspension of Coach Paul Sutherland and was coming off a 59-point hammering at the hands of St. Joseph, the state's top-ranked Class A team.
On Tuesday night at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Complex, there was something to be said for moral victories after a hard-fought 59-47 defeat at the hands of Class AAA No. 1 Greenbrier East (10-0).
"With all that's happened, we just have to be positive with our situation and move on," said Samantha Fletcher, the team's only senior with varsity playing experience. "We've been dealt a lot of things this season as a team and we've learned to take it day by day and move forward."
Catherine Bandak and Peri Bailey suffered serious knee injuries that won't allow them to play this season. Junior Hanna Gallian suffered a knee injury and played her first full game on Tuesday.
For Greenbrier East's part, the Spartans had not played since an 18-point victory over Washington on Jan. 12. The defending state champions had given up an average of 43.2 points in their nine victories, and more than 46 only four times.
Make that five, after Fletcher poured in 22 points and, with the help of Gallian and junior Anna Whelan, kept the Irish (5-9) in a game that appeared early on to be headed toward a second consecutive one-sided conclusion.
The Spartans, using pinpoint shooting, shot out to a 9-0 lead before Fletcher put Catholic on the board with a basket at the 5-minute mark of the first period.
Greenbrier East scored the next four points - a free throw and a long-range basket that began a string of 3-pointers that didn't stop until Kaitlyn Mize scored a two to give the Spartans a 16-point advantage late in the first half.
In the first 16 minutes, the Spartans had 11 baskets - nine of which were 3-pointers led by the hot hand of guard Chloe Honaker, who had a season-high five 3s.
Her 17 points led the Spartans, who received a quiet 16 points and eight rebounds from senior Bianca Andre. The 2011-12 All-State forward attempted just six shots in the first half with only five points, three rebounds and a turnover.
"Worst game we played all year," said Greenbrier East Coach Jim Justice, whose team is on a 16-game winning streak dating to Feb. 18, 2012 when it suffered a 65-52 loss at South Charleston.
"Not to take anything whatsoever from Charleston Catholic. We play really aggressive, getting the 50-50 balls, shooting the ball really good, we don't stand around. We had some kids sick. (Elizabeth) Romeo and Andre have been sick. Chloe Honaker has a turned ankle. We have semester exams tomorrow. We haven't played in two weeks.
"All those are contributing factors, but it's my job to have them ready. To tell it like it is, we played terrible."
Then again, it was Catholic that was the aggressor, beating the Spartans' press, being patient offensively and finishing with an advantage in rebounds (33-32), steals (13-8) and finishing with just one fewer turnover (14-13).
Gallian, playing her first full game since a knee injury before the season, played 20 minutes and had 11 points, six rebounds and two steals.
Freshman Peyton Mullen didn't score, but had six rebounds, and Whelan added five.
Mullen and Madison Helmick - the other ninth-grade starter - combined for just three points on 1-of-4 shooting with 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
"These freshmen coming in and helping has meant a lot to us," Fletcher said. "They give us a chance, they give us another body out there. They hustle. They don't shoot a lot, they don't have to, but they know when they can."
The Irish will try to put together another inspired performance tonight when it visits Man. The Spartans meet Logan on Friday.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.