CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An already tough week got even rougher for Charleston Catholic on Tuesday night.
The Class A Fighting Irish, though, lived up to their nickname and gave Class AAA No. 1 and defending state champion Greenbrier East all it could handle before succumbing in a 59-47 loss. A crowd of about 200 attended the girls high school basketball matchup at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Complex.
Catholic was coming off a 75-16 loss at Class A No. 1 and four-time defending state champion St. Joseph, then learned over the weekend that first-year Irish coach Paul Sutherland and his staff weren't going to be with the team as Catholic Principal Debra Sullivan reviews possible Secondary School Activities Commission violations.
Sutherland took over for Ashley Shepler, who stepped down this summer after eight seasons. Sutherland compiled a 159-43 record in eight seasons at Winfield, guiding the Generals to two Class AA state titles.
"Anytime I have a concern we pause,'' said Sullivan. "I review things and during the interim I take steps to ensure that our teams are in good hands while I sort through things. I look forward to a resolution and I hope for a good resolution. I'd like to think [Sutherland would] be back within two weeks. That is my plan.''
So in stepped Theresa O'Leary, who has been an assistant coach at Catholic for various sports through the years, as the head coach for her first game Tuesday. She was helped out by former Shepler assistant Scott Welch and Zach Bogan, a Catholic graduate who coached the Irish middle school girls soccer team this past season.
"They did everything that we asked,'' said O'Leary of Catholic's players. "They were aggressive and played their hearts out. You couldn't have asked for more.
"We thought we could hang with [Greenbrier East]. [The coaches] believed that, we just had to make [the players] believe that. They came out and played loose. We are just so proud.''
Catholic (5-9) pulled within nine points (50-41) on senior guard Samantha Fletcher's 3-pointer with 4:31 left in the game.
Greenbrier East senior Biana Andre' followed with a turnaround jumper and converted 1 of 2 free-throw attempts to push East's lead to double digits (53-41) with 3:36 to go and the Spartans' advantage never dipped into single digits again. Andre' finished with 16 points, with five coming in the fourth quarter.