The Chapman Irish basketball teams had another long week to start their final month of the season. The girls and boys teams played three games each and going on the road for two of them. This three-game stretch is just the beginning of a stretch of five games in the final three weeks before substate play begins. The Lady Irish are in a good position to potentially host their substate, carrying an 11-4 record heading into next week.
The girls started off with a dominating win over Concordia, a game that was never close from the start. The Lady Irish led 10-4 at the end of the first, but the game was not as close as the score indicated. The Lady Irish pulled away in the second quarter, allowing just one bucket while outscoring the Panthers 15-2, giving the Lady Irish a 25-6 lead going into the locker room. The Lady Irish kept their foot on the gas with another great defensive quarter, outscoring Concordia 12-6 before the JV gave up ten points in the final quarter to make the game just a little closer. The Lady Irish reached double-digit wins for the first time since the 2015-16 season with their 46-22 win over Concordia, also giving them a 3-2 league record.
The boys also got a big win over the Panthers, who had been playing good basketball lately. The Irish got out to a good start, jumping out to a 10-3 lead in the first quarter. The Panthers wouldn’t back down, though, climbing back to within four to make it a 12-8 game halfway through the second quarter, but the Irish flexed their muscles offensively, outscoring the Panthers 12-3 to finish the quarter and led 24-11 at halftime after a Cam Liebau three at the buzzer. The Irish built on their lead in the third quarter, stretching all the way to 35-18.The Irish lead was down to 35-24 after a jumper at the third-quarter buzzer fell for the Panthers. The Irish lead kept growing, and the Panthers never got to within single-digits again. The Irish came away with a 48-33 win. While the offense had been playing well lately, it was the Irish defense that won them this game. The Panthers shot just 21.6% from the field, including 20% from inside the arc. It was a very balanced scoring night for the Irish, as ten different players scored.
The Lady Irish had revenge on their mind on Tuesday night, as they hoped to get back at the Clay Center Tigers for handing them their first loss since early December. The Tigers were one of the top teams in the NCKL, boasting a 6-0 record in league play entering Tuesday. After a defensive duel just a week ago, both teams came out on fire offensively. The Irish led 18-16 after one quarter of play. The Lady Irish offense went cold in the second quarter, scoring just six points, while the Tigers took advantage and took a 29-23 lead going into halftime. The two teams stayed neck-and-neck in the third quarter, with the Irish climbing just a little closer, trailing 42-36 going to the fourth quarter. The Lady Irish defense turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter, shutting down a Tigers offense that was scoring at will for the first three quarters. The Lady Irish trailed 44-43 with just under two minutes to go until McKenna Kirkpatrick jumped the passing lane and took a steal coast-to-coast for the go-ahead bucket. With the Lady Irish now leading 50-48 late in the game, Kirkpatrick came up clutch defensively once again, getting another steal with under ten seconds remaining to secure the Lady Irish victory. Kirkpatrick scored thirteen points for the Lady Irish, but it was her defensive presence that mattered most for the Lady Irish. Ashlynn Bledsoe led the way with 15 points for the Lady Irish.
The boys also had revenge on their mind, but the Clay Center Tigers were playing some of their best basketball of the season coming into Tuesday night’s matchup. The Tigers had bested the Irish just a week ago 46-40. The Tigers wasted no time in this one, jumping out to an early 9-0 lead after the Irish turned the ball over time after time. The Irish fought back to make it 12-4 at the end of the first quarter. It was the Irish whose defense stepped up in the second quarter, holding the Tigers to two points in the quarter, and took the halftime lead after Trey Adams hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to take a 17-14 lead going into halftime. The Irish held a 19-18 lead with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, looking like it would be a defensive battle going into the fourth quarter, but the Tigers came out of nowhere to rip off a 16-0 run in the span of just two minutes. The Tigers outscored the Irish 20-2 in the third quarter and led 34-19 going into the final quarter. Once again, the Irish could not overcome a large deficit and fell 48-31. The Irish shot well inside, hitting 10/15 of their shots inside the arc, but were just 2/20 on three-point attempts.
Both the girls and boys battled illness during the week. With the flu going around, both teams were short-handed for their matchup against SE Saline on Friday. For the girls, Kirkpatrick, Suther, and Adams were not at full strength for Friday. The guys would be without Eli Riegel, who battled the flu and back soreness throughout the week.
The girls ran out to a quick start against the Trojans, taking an eight-point lead in the first quarter, and that lead extended all the way to double-digits before leading by five going into halftime. After playing so well in the second half all season, the girls struggled in the third quarter, as SE Saline went on a big run in the third to take an eight-point lead, but a Peyton Suther buzzer-beater three trimmed the lead to five going into the final quarter. The Lady Irish fatigue showed in the fourth. The ladies could not get a shot to fall in the fourth, and the Trojans couldn’t miss. Despite trailing at half, the Trojans pulled away to defeat the Lady Irish 53-31.
The boys also got out to a great start. The Irish jumped all over the Trojans, taking a 21-7 lead in the first quarter. The Irish were playing great defense and scoring in transition every time. The Trojans stayed in it, though, getting the Irish lead down to five before halftime. The two teams stayed tight through the third, the Irish leading by six going into the final quarter after Noah Riegel hit and and-one layup at the end of the third. After struggling throughout the whole game, the Trojans finally found their stride offensively in the fourth quarter. Bryant Banks went off in the fourth, scoring at will in the final four minutes of the game. Trailing by five with just over three minutes to go, the Trojans ripped off an 11-0 run to take their first lead of the game. The Irish struggled from the charity stripe down the stretch, but the Trojans didn’t, and defeated the Irish by a final score of 56-49.
The Irish will be looking to get healthy and back on track for this week with two big NCKL matchups on the schedule. The girls have a huge 4A West matchup with Wamego, which could potentially determine home-court advantage for substate. The Irish are currently one game behind the Lady Raiders for the third-seed in the western standings. The Lady Raiders carry a 12-3 record into Tuesday night’s matchup, while the Lady Irish sit right behind them at 11-4. On Friday, the Irish will stay home to face Concordia again. With two home games for the week, the girls and boys will be looking for a big crowd to help them to victory on Tuesday and Friday.