McMECHEN - St. John coach Bubba Kapral came way from his team's girls' basketball game with Bishop Donahue impressed.
Not only with his team, which just won its 12th game, but also with the one that just dropped its 11th.
''They've improved tremendously,'' Kapral said of the Bishops. ''The first time we played Bishop Donahue, we had our way with them. But, Coach (Donnie) Gillis and his staff have improved a lot, so I give them credit.
Bishop Donahue’s Kelsey Schau (13) tries to dribble around the defense of St. Johns’ Jessica Alvey (44) during their game Thursday night in McMechen.
''I'm surprised with Bishop Doanhue.''
The Bishops battled long and hard, but eventually grew tired giving up a 13-4 run to end the third quarter as the Fighting Irish went on to claim a 63-46 victory at Father Raymond Jablonski Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday night.
''The second half I just think we wore them out,'' Kapral said. ''I saw them after the game and I knew they were tired. (Jessica) Alvey and (Kaydie) Coppa, they bring the pressure and that's what we want to do. (Marissa) Rose led us in points, but it's usually our senior, (Kristen) Russell, who does it, but that just shows that we can share the wealth. It was a nice win.''
The Fighting Irish (12-6) looked like they may have been on their way to another blowout with a 7-2 run in the second quarter, courtesy of Rose, who hit three buckets in that span, to make the score 28-17. But that's when the Bishops (3-11) caught lighting in a bottle with a 8-3 spurt that sent the team to the locker room only down five at 29-24.
The Bishops got within four midway through the third with back-to-back buckets by Ekaterina Polinski that made it a 35-31 contest, but that's when the visitors slammed the door, highlighted once again by Rose, who put in a layup, raced down the other end of the court to come away with a steal which led to another basket for the freshman.
Rose, one of three freshmen starters for the Fighting Irish, led the team with a game-high 23 points, two shy of her career high.
Russell also ended her night in double figures for St. John with 15 points.
As for the Bishops, Gillis points to late defensive misques which led to the teams eventual demise.
''We weren't getting to the tape line,'' he said. ''They were driving on us to the baseline, taking easy shots because our weakside help wasn't stepping over and doing their job. They're told they have to get to the tape line, step over if someone gets beat, but they weren't doing it. St. John just made their shots.
''Plus they kind of picked up our defense a little bit too, and we just couldn't make a bucket.''
A theme that has been heard all too well by the team that shoots 20 percent from the floor and gives up the ball 21 times per contest.
''I thought we played very hard. At St. John, Bubba does a helluva of a job. Last time they played us the beat us by 29 points.''
Kelsey Schau, who didn't play in the first meeting because of a sprained ankle, led the Bishops with 15 points and had the only 3-pointer in the contest.
Polinski added 12 points, while Ali Bauer chipped in 10.