The season to date hasn’t been ideal.
“It’s just OK,” Reggen Melson said recently when assessing the early part of the Cathedral High School girls basketball season.
That’s one part of the Irish’s 2018-2019 story. The other part is that the potential is there for a strong finish – and Melson said that will be the focus as a difficult postseason approaches.
“We’re going to fight to the end,” Melson said. “That’s the plan. That’s our game plan.”
The Irish, after a 12-11 finish in Melson’s first season as coach in 2017-2018, competed through injuries to start the 2018-2019 season with a 4-9 record. They responded with four victories in six games, qualifying for the championship game of the 2019 City Tournament.
They beat Indianapolis Herron 75-30 in the first round of the city tournament, then beat Cardinal Ritter 61-55 in the semifinal before losing to Heritage Christian, 74-67, in the January 10 city title game.
They were 8-12 after the title game with three games remaining before the postseason, and Melson said the potential was there for a strong postseason.
“The city tournament gave us a little fire, and gave us a little confidence,” Melson said. “That’s our focus. We’ve said the last part of our season is one big war and each of the games are different battles in the war. We’re trying to take each battle and see how we can finish strong.”
Melson said she knew entering the season every game would be a challenge. The Irish play a difficult regular-season schedule to prepare for the always-difficult Class 4A, Section tournament.
“We were talking during practice recently,” Melson said. “One player said, ‘We could easily be 12-and-something.’ I said, ‘Yes, but we’re not.’ But they’ve seen it. We have games where we play really well and we’re not able to finish. We’re right there, but you know … small things, little details.”
The not only entered the season with a young team, they have dealt with injuries to key players such as junior and leading scorer Justis Gordon and junior power forward Nyah Conway.
“It’s just little things … not having everybody back and healthy at the same time,” Melson said.
Gordon in 16 games averaged 18.4 points and four rebounds per game with Conway averaging 3.4 points and 4.0 rebounds. Sophomore Clara Lee was averaging 8.7 points through 17 games and freshman Katie Bremmer was averaging 7.7 points and 5.6 rebounds.
“They haven’t stopped fighting, so I think they’re responding well,” Melson said. “They’ve seen where we’ve maybe dropped the ball a little. But they’re responding well and we’re going to keep fighting.”
Melson said despite the adversity the Irish remain a team opponents fear.
“They look at our record and say, ‘Oh, this is in the win column,’’’ Melson said. “But they’re not sure, because if we’re playing well, we’ll catch people off guard.”
The Irish this season have just one senior varsity player, with Maddy Lee – a returner from last season – missing the season because of injury. The varsity roster features four juniors with five sophomore and two freshmen.
“We’re very young,” Melson said. “We had two or three returning starters, and everybody else played hardly any varsity minutes last season. They were very new. Are we young in that sense? Yes.”
Melson said this season’s experience absolutely will make for a stronger core moving forward.
“I’ve told the girls, ‘I’m frustrated but I’m not mad,’’’ she said. “It’s been the same theme all season: We’re right there. All we have to do is clean up little things. I’m just hoping it will help us finish strong. It’s like, ‘OK, when you guys are ready, we can click.’
“It would be lovely for them to see these struggles bear fruit going into sectionals. If not, then definitely next year. These young kids will have so much experience. It’s fuel for better days.”