Following a victory against over city rival Bellaire last weekend, St. John Central veteran girls' basketball coach Robert "Bubba" Kapral was worried heading into Wednesday night's contest with visiting Steubenville Central.
"Coming into this game I was a little worried," he admitted. "Going into the Bellaire game we were wired up and ready to play. I was worried about us being flat. We were feeling too good about that Bellaire win."
He was right on the money as his team came out flatter than a stack of wafer-thin pancakes, but the Lady Irish (3-1) were able to manage a 34-29 victory over the Crusaders (2-2) inside the Green House on Guernsey Street.
"We told the girls that we didn't play with a lot of energy or passion, but we had enough talent and grit to get it done," Kapral noted.
The Irish misfired on seven of their first eight shots from the floor, but played well enough on the defensive end to be able to reel off six straight points to end the first period with a 7-6 edge.
Steubenville Central used a basket by Michaela Torrance to gain the upperhand, 14-13, with just under a minute left in the first half, but Kristen Russell knocked down 1 of 2 free throws at the 34.7 second mark for a 14-all deadlock at the half.
Trailing 16-14 early in the third panel, St. John Central made its move, and did so without freshman point guard Marissa Rose who was saddled with three fouls.
Russell, an all-district performer last season as a junior, netted six of her game-high 11 points to ignite an 8-0 spurt that gave the hosts a 22-16 lead it would not relinquish.
"Kristen is a player," Kapral said of the 5-7 forward. Union Local transfer Caitlin Sliva also connected for two points in the spree.
After the Crusaders cut the deficit to one, 22-21, late in the period, St. John Central's Morgan DeLuca made it 24-21 after 24 minutes.
"A big key was the play of Sliva and (Jessica) Alvey in the third quarter," Kapral recalled. "They both came in off the bench and gave us a spark when we had girls in foul trouble."
The Irish tallied eight of the first 12 points in the final chapter to build a 7-point, 32-25, margin.
Miranda Parkinson's bonus bomb made it a 32-28 game, but St. John Central held on despite numerous turnovers down the stretch.
"It wasn't pretty at times, but we'll take the 'W'," Kapral said "We gutted it out down the stretch."
Rose, a promising frosh, backed Russell with eight points. She also charted a trio of steals and four rebounds. Russell finished with six boards and four steals. DeLuca had six points and seven caroms, while freshman Lindsey Froehlich had five points and a like number of rebounds.
Steubenville Central held a slim, 33-31, margin off the glass as Rachel Riguad grabbed eight.
The Crusaders turned the ball over 19 times, four more than the Irish, but 11 of St. John Central's miscues came after the half.
St. John Central remains on the home hardwood tonight as Toronto visits.