Overall, Lisa Finn liked what she saw.
That didn’t mean the first-year head coach or the Lady Irish players loved everything about the results of the 2019-2020 Cathedral High School girls basketball season. Still, this past season was about establishing a program.
On that front, progress was made – a lot of progress. And a foundation was laid on which much can be built moving forward. All of that left a positive feeling.
“I think it went well,” Finn said. “When you look at the season in terms of wins and losses … obviously as a coach and as somebody that’s competitive, you always want to win every game – or at least put yourself to win every game.
“I had a lot of fun. I loved being back on the court, and I really liked this group of girls. That made it fun.”
The Irish, after finishing 12-11 and 10-15 the past two seasons, made a noticeable improvement in 2019-2020. They finished 15-10 overall, narrowly lost in the final of the City Tournament and lost in the semifinal of the Class 4A, Section 10 tournament to North Central, 66-55.
“We put ourselves in a position to win the city championship,” Finn said of a 62-56 loss to Heritage Christian in the final of the city tournament. “That’s all you can ask for – to be in position to win the game. We didn’t end up winning it, but I feel like we gave our best effort.”
The Irish also sustained narrow losses to Bishop Chatard and Avon, and were competitive in multiple other losses.
“We could have just easily had half of those losses be wins,” Finn said. “So, when you look at wins and loses, obviously it was successful – with the potential to be more successful. But overall, I felt like the program – the changes we made and our focus on the program – I feel like was a complete success this year.”
That, Finn said, was a major accomplishment for a program that plays annually in one of the state’s toughest sectionals.
“Looking at how we stepped up to some of those teams that are getting a lot of press statewide – I feel pretty good,” Finn said. “We were always touted as the underdog, and that’s OK. But I think once our girls saw how we stacked up to some of those teams, they were like, ‘You know what? We can compete at this level.’
“That’s going to be a goal for the next couple of years – just getting the girls to believe that. The heart of our program, I feel like is really moving in a good direction. I feel good about that for next season.”
And throughout the season, Finn said the Irish increasingly played like a team.
“So many times, there are so many individuals wanting to play five games of one on one,” Finn said. “In a team sport at a high level, you need each other – and to trust each other. Those are things we’re going to continue to work through. But we definitely saw a shift in a positive direction.”
The Irish in 2019-2020 were led by senior guard/forward Justis Gordon, who averaged 15.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Finn said Gordon adapted well to being the focus of the opposition’s defense in most games.
“She had a lot of people gearing up for her,” Finn said. “She was the person who needed to be stopped to stop us. That was an adjustment and she realized it couldn’t all be on her shoulders, and then when we needed her to take things on her shoulders she did. She had a good senior season.”
Junior Courtney Fields returned to the Irish this past season, with Finn calling her the “X-Factor.” The point guard averaged 12.5 points and 2.8 assists.
“She has the ability to take over games,” Finn said. “I’m excited about her play, but I’m really excited to see her transformation as a person – from her freshman year until now. There’s a maturity about her and it’s really just her work ethic: She constantly wants to get better.”
Senior forward Nyah Conway averaged 2.0 points and 1.6 rebounds per game, and senior guard Cassie Piper averaged 5.8 points and 2.3 assists per game while playing the role of defensive stopper in many games.
Gordon and Fields earned All-City honors, and junior guard Clara Lee was an honorable mention All-City selection.
“There were obviously bumps along the way, and kids adjusting to a different coach – and a different program,” Finn said. “Change is hard, so I think we struggled a little bit with some of that. But for the most part, when I’m reflecting on it, I feel like it was a success. I do think we won a lot of areas that matter when you’re trying to build a program.”