CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic honored seniors from both teams with roses Tuesday night in its matchup with Man.That might be the last time the Fighting Irish are so kind on Senior Night.Senior Summer Sword pumped in a game-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Hillbillies held on for a chaotic 46-45 victory over Catholic that featured several clock malfunctions down the stretch. A crowd of about 200 attended the matchup of Class A schools at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Facility.Freshman forward Raegan Palmer's putback with 34.1 seconds left pulled Catholic within one point (46-45). The Irish's full-court press forced a turnover when Man sophomore Mika McCoy was called for an illegal screen with 20 seconds remaining. Before that, the officials instructed the Catholic clock operator to run several ticks off since the clock didn't start properly.Catholic had a chance to take the lead when Palmer had a clean look at the basket from the right of the foul line, but the shot bounced off the rim and Man secured the rebound.Hillbillies junior guard Morgan Conn was fouled with 12.9 seconds to go and missed the 1-plus-1 free-throw attempt. After the Irish rebounded, Man junior guard Jennifer Shull deflected a pass by Irish junior guard Anna Whelan. Man was awarded the ball with three seconds remaining after a scramble and a tie up since it had the possession arrow. After that the officials again had the clock operator take off a few ticks.Shull was fouled, but missed the 1-plus-1, giving the Irish a glimmer of hope. Catholic senior guard Samantha Fletcher snatched the rebound, took a couple of dribbles up court then let fly a shot from about half court that failed to draw iron as time expired.Catholic (8-13) only forced 10 turnovers through the first three quarters, but caused six in the fourth quarter."Senior Nights are always tough,'' said Catholic coach Paul Sutherland. "We were just flat. We played hard at the end. Sometimes you second-guess yourself as a coach.
"We decided we wanted to do half-court man [defense] and maybe we should have extended the pressure and kept it going. It's just in the first half we weren't doing well at it. Man hit shots even sometimes when we were defensively on them, and we didn't.''McCoy finished with 12 points and seven boards for Man (13-6) and senior Taylor Whited contributed 10 rebounds. Sword knocked down four 3-pointers, including three in the first quarter, as the Hillbillies played the Irish to a 17-all tie."My girls played with a lot of intensity,'' said Man coach Tonia Ward. "We know how good Charleston Catholic is."They always hustle, they're real aggressive, they crash the boards and we just told them you've got to hang with them. You've got to keep going after it and keep going after it and never give up. They did what we wanted them to do.''Fletcher, one of Catholic's two seniors, scored 19 points and snagged seven rebounds. Whelan contributed eight points, six boards, five assists and two steals while senior forward Simone Assaley had eight points and eight caroms. Fletcher and Whelan, the Irish's top two scorers, made just 8 of 41 shots combined, including 4 of 25 from long range.The Irish have had a tough season, losing three starters before the year began to knee injuries, another key contributor to another knee injury and one player decided to leave the team a few weeks ago.
Sutherland, in his first year at Catholic, also had to sit out for two weeks to allow Catholic Principal Debra Sullivan to investigate possible Secondary School Activities Commission violations."With all the things this team has had to go through and as well as they've played ...'' Sutherland said. "Our schedule has been brutal. I was totaling it up, 14 or 15 games this year have been against teams that at one time or another had been ranked. I think it's made us better. I think [our players] have handled it pretty well.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.