The future looks bright.
As Cathedral High School girls basketball coach Reggen Melson sees it, that didn’t make the 2018-2019 season easy – and it wasn’t always fun – but it did mean a foundation was laid for the future.
And that meant something important was accomplished.
“If you look at the big picture, they responded to adversity,” Melson said. “It’s real easy when you’re in the mix of it not to see that. We stuck it out. We finished strong. We had some bright spots.”
The Lady Irish in Melson’s second season finished 10-15 in 2018-2019, winning five of their final 10 games following a difficult 4-9 start that featured multiple early-season injuries and obstacles. They beat Indianapolis Tech 58-16 in the first round of the Section 10, Class 4A tournament at Cathedral then finished the season by losing to Heritage Christian in the sectional semifinal, 64-47.
The loss ended a season in which the Irish got solid performance from a slew of young players who should set the tone for a strong future.
“Our young players showed a lot of good things,” Melson said. “For the most part, we get our whole team back [next season]. You have to look at the positives of that and our young girls played a lot of minutes. They’ll be very experienced for next year.
“There were some good things. It’s just hard to see when you’re in the middle of it.”
The Irish’s ‘19 season also featured two strong regular-season tournament performances, with victories over Flora Carroll (62-29) and Valpraiso (62-55) preceding a 78-48 loss Crown Point in the championship game of the Twin Lakes Tournament.
The Irish also reached the final of the Indianapolis City Tournament, beating Herron (75-30) and Ritter (61-55) before losing to Heritage Christian, 74-67.
Melson also said the Irish should be helped by the first-hand experience of having the sectional tournament at Cathedral.
“We had semi-state level games,” Melson said. “For our girls to see that, I think they see wat it takes.”
Melson said the season overall was defined by youth and growth. The team entered the season with just two seniors – guard/forward Katherine Gallagher and forward Maddy Lee; Lee missed the season with an injury. The varsity roster featured four juniors with five sophomore and two freshmen.
“In hindsight, you’re like, ‘OK, give them a little more grace there,’ ’’ Melson said of the youth, “but we still had so many spurts of being able to get it done though, too.
Junior Justis Gordon led the Irish in ’18-’19 with 19.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, with sophomore Clara Lee averaging 9.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. Junior power forward Nyah Conway scored 3.3 points with 3.7 rebounds per game.
Freshman Katie Bremmer averaged 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds, and Melson overall said the added year of experience will help next season.
“We’ll have new people added to the mix next year, but we’ll have a very seasoned senior group with the freshmen who will be sophomores and the sophomore becoming juniors,” Melson said. “Everybody’s getting older, so the learning curve will be higher. We should be able to jump into things a lot quicker.”
Melson said Gordon carried the Irish much of the season and Lee – like Gordon – received recognition for All-City consideration not only for scoring but for defense. Lee often covered the opponent’s best guard.
“She handled it well,” Melson said.
Sophomores Mia Finn (3.0 points, 4.1 rebounds) and Caroline Cline (2.0 points, 3.2 rebounds) also contributed significantly to a young Irish team that Melson said should improve next season.
“We definitely have the ability,” she said. “We have to make sure how commitment level is there. Where we are, we have to take it up just a notch in our offseason. I think you’ll see it next season – that growth of everybody saying, ‘OK, we can do this.’’
“I feel like they will see that everybody has to move up a level. They have to take their game to the next level, and they have to be self-motivated. You can’t just always be motivated by your coach. It takes some self-motivation to get there.
“Everybody will be a year older. We can play at the next level. We just have to push ourselves to the next level.”