by Ed McCarnes

Closeness, the old saying goes, counts in horseshoes, quoits, hand grenades, and nuclear bomb blasts. Unfortunately, in basketball it doesn’t.

The St. Joseph Lady Irish came into an historic season with a challenging goal. The goal was to match the eight consecutive championships by Northfork boys basketball from 1974 through 1981.

In-season improvement and sectional-regional domination expanded the belief of goal attainment. But somewhere between the regional and state tournaments the goal dream began to shred.

A look into the rear view mirror of introspection provides insight. In practice over the last week the run-through of skill drills, compared to the early season, was listless. Mini scrimmages were only warmly intense.

Then there were the state quarterfinal and semifinal games.

Overlooked in the gloss of a decisive win over game but outmanned Richwood were two ominous statistics: 9-for-31 trifecta shooting and 2-for-6 free throw success.

Against St. Marys in semifinal play the Irish frittered away a 17-point lead. This time SJ regrouped in the final five minutes with an 8-2 scoring spurt. But ominous stats called again. Arc shooting closed at 5-for-27, 18.5%. Game free throw shooting finished at 10-for-19 or 52.6%. In the final five minutes free throw totals were 1-for-5.

The Lady Irish opened championship play with a 12-point halftime lead. The LI held a 10-point lead at 4:30 of quarter three and a 40-38 advantage with 80 seconds to play.

Closeout foul shooting at 1-for-3 over the final 1:11 sealed the losing result. Include 6-for-28 game and 1-for-11 second half 3-point success as accomplices.

The unexpected smudge diminishes but does not completely degloss a 21-4 season success.

So how about the future?

The team’s talent core is in its sophomore-elect and junior-elect classes. Paige Shy, Errin Kay, and McKenzie Moran each hold three years of eligibility. For Alexis Hall and Haylee Hunter two winters remain. Seniors-elect Tyesha Taylor and Kendra Ziegler could provide step-up leadership potential.

Essence Sims, Griffyn Ellison, and Arianna Patrick are depth development in progress. Ellison and Patrick will be second-year players. Sims will be a junior.

Like students starting a geometry test, the returnees have a lot to prove. Completion of a sports geometry exam should be helpful.

The sports angles and curls test has three sections that assist focus on the key question “How can I help my team?” Specifically, how can I (1) further develop useful extant skills and attitudes, (2) identify additional skills, physical and mental, that I need to acquire, (3) acquire those skills between seasons?

Rest assured head coach Shannon Lewis will be taking an advanced placement version of the above about his team. He may also hope daily that players with notable skills will be attracted to St. Joe’s quality academics and his developing mecca hoops program.

Ten years of observing Lewis dictate the conclusion that close is unsatisfactory. The buzz of adjustment will be vibrating inside the walls of the SJHS building. This will continue until (1) the problems have been resolved, and (2) position atop Class A girls basketball has been regained.