Limited by injuries throughout the regular season, the Christ the King (CK) eighth-grade girls basketball team was determined to keep fighting on in the playoffs.
Their grit led the Screaming Eagles to the championship of the Southside Catholic Conference (SCC)-Red division.
Although they fought to the end against top-seed St. Catherine of Alexandria in the Gold Ball game on Nov. 10 at Mother McAuley, the feisty CK team lost in a tough 34-24 defeat.
Despite the outcome, CK guard Betsy Bracewell looked at the bright side.
“We stuck together,” Bracewell said. “Everyone stepped up. We worked together, put the hard work in at practice and put that into our games.”
Bracewell led the Screaming Eagles with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals. Also contributing were Ellery Rees (7 points) and Lizzie Badke (4 points, 7 rebounds).
In her second year with the team, Coach Erica Buck, a Mt. Greenwood native who played at Queen of Peace High School and North Central College, saw the squad continue to work hard with the goal of peaking at the end of the year.
“I got the pleasure of coaching them in their seventh- and eighth-grade years,” Buck said. “This group welcomed me with open arms. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they worked day in and day out. They’re a hard-nosed team that’s ready to fight and work.”
Trailing by four points (16-12) at the half, CK went back and forth into the fourth quarter. A Bracewell inside bucket off a hard-fought rebound cut the St. Catherine lead to 3 points at 22-19 with 5:19 left in the game.
However, the Screaming Eagles struggled to handle the Chargers’ pressure down the stretch and turned the ball over at key moments.
Badke said she knew it would be a battle against St. Catherine.
“It was close each time we faced them. It was always close,” Badke said. “It was our game, and we kind of gave it to them at the end. We played at their speed and not ours. We weren’t controlling the ball as well as we normally do.”
St. Catherine outscored CK 14-7 in the fourth quarter.
For Bracewell and company, it was a tough end to a memorable run for the team.
“We’ve been playing together since fourth grade,” Bracewell said. “We know our positions and our skills and how to help each other. It’s special having us together and working together.”
And no matter the injuries, from sprained ankles to partial ligament tears to badly injured wrists, the Screaming Eagles didn’t let anything slow them down this year.
“We all stepped up to work together as a team,” Badke said.
The CK roster also includes Molly Blough, Caroline Sullivan, Carmen Colon (9 rebounds, 2 steals), Annie Buckley (2 steals) and Lucy Guest.
Buck is assisted by Andy Rees.
St. Damian 25
St. Cajetan 21
Playing in the SCC-White division eighth-grade championship, St. Cajetan lost a close one to St. Damian.
Keeley Fill (6 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals), Brianna Labiak (5 points, 5 rebounds), Grace Kenney (4 points, 4 rebounds), Jayne Sullivan (4 points, 6 rebounds) and Maura Sexton (2 points, 7 rebounds) led the Warriors.
St. Cajetan cut the deficit to 3 points with 1:42 left on a Kenney midrange jumper, but St. Damian answered with a free throw and a fast-break basket on its next 2 possessions.
The Warriors roster includes Claire Kenah (3 rebounds), Maeve O’Brien (8 rebounds) and Andi Moriarty.
Coach Jack Schmitz is assisted by Dave Sullivan and Joe Kenney.