CLINTON – The Joe O'Donnell Sports Center was officially dedicated on Tuesday night, and it saw two competitive games go separate ways for the Irish.
'The Joe' -- formerly known as Central Catholic Auditorium -- was officially blessed and dedicated on Tuesday in front of a large home crowd. The brand new floor and new name was part of nearly $200,00 worth of rennovations to the auditorium over the last five years.
Joe O'Donnell joined donors and staff and athletes before the varsity girls game for the occasion.
After that it was all basketball. And the girls probably hear one word over and over again in their minds: turnover, turnover, turnover.
The Irish struggled to keep the ball out of an aggressive and speedy Alburnett defense.
"We competed, we're making headway, we just need to realize how to finish," head coach David Nelson said after the first loss of the season.
The Irish turned the ball over 15 times in the first quarter alone. Sophomore Paige Kuehl would get a steal, a shot, an offensive rebound, a basket and the foul for the three point play to break the ice and take the 3-2 lead at 5:54.
The turnovers then created havoc, although Kuehl was there to add some offense. She ended the night with 12 points, second highest on the team.
"This is what we have got to have out of Paige," Nelson said. "This is what she did at the beginning of the last year. She was out there competing today ... She was working hard."
Another eight turnovers in the second quarter put them behind double digits, but they managed to rally and only trail 23-20 at the half. A lot of it was thanks to them forcing their own turnovers with a full court press and speedy guards.
"We need to, we have to disrupt the other time," Nelson said. "Tonight, we did a great job denying but once they got it over the top the speed of their point guard was the difference and we couldn't recover quick enough."
The Pirates were able to go on a run in the second and took the Irish down in their second game of the season.
"There was a spurt of about 2-3 minutes and the game got away from us," Nelson said.
Freshman Lilly Isenhour led the scoring with 18. Isenhour and Kaelyn Goodsman are both freshman on the team making a significant impact: Isenhour in the center of the pain and Goodsman in back court defense.
"They'll be getting a lot of time," Nelson said. "They're important, they've been around the game a lot and they compete hard. We have to have that consistent work ethic and both of them are capable of that."
The Irish move to 1-1 on the season, and take on Maquoketa Valley on the road on Friday. Nelson is looking for his team to do more in stopping the ball, and more players to get in their varsity groove."
"We're capable of scoring more but it's still going to have to be defense and rebounding," Nelson said. "I want a little more balance out of the team ... We need one or two extra players to maybe pick up their game and get out there and compete."
Boys battle for W
The Irish boys had a close game until the very end, sinking late shots and free throws to take down Alburnett in their season opener at The Joe.
With the Irish returning most of their varsity squad from 2017, the first half proved to be a grind, with the Irish barely coming away with the lead. With the 24-21 lead at the half, Michael Matthew came out and put one in right away from the paint to get the five point lead.
After a steal, Matthew then got the long pass down the court and flipped it to senior Payton Schnier who got the foul. It seemed like just the spark the Irish need to pull away.
Maintaining it, the Irish really opened things up in the fourth quarter. First, senior Patrick Mulholland got a wide open shot after a minute of stalling. To follow that up, on the next play Schnier got an offensive rebound and put in the reverse layup. By then Alburnett had to revert to fouling.
Prince of Peace handled it. After a few shaky free shots from the line, they started putting them in. Not to mention junior Nate Moeller and Matthew grabbed every defensive rebound there was. Alburnett panicked
Matthew and Schnier, two of the Irish seniors, led the scoring with 11 a piece. Moeller and point guard Kaidion Larson added another eight each.
The boys are 1-0 on the season and travel with the girls to Maquoketa Valley on Friday.