CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic is no longer satisfied with simply putting up a good fight.
The Fighting Irish again turned in a respectable performance against a top-ranked team, but came up short in a 57-48 loss Friday night to Class A No. 2 Wheeling Central. A crowd of about 100 attended the girls high school basketball matchup at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Facility.
Catholic (6-10) played toe-to-toe with Class AAA No. 1 and undefeated Greenbrier East, the defending state champion, losing 57-49 Tuesday but pulling within nine points in the fourth quarter. The Irish lost at Central 64-26 earlier in the season.
"We're getting better,'' said Catholic senior forward Samantha Fletcher, who scored 16 points Friday against Central (14-2). "We're getting closer and closer. Having Hannah [Gallian] back and getting [the starters] all together again is helping us out.
"The first time we pretty much got blown out by [Wheeling Central]. We want to win. We'll get there one day. We're making progress and taking things day by day. Things keep happening, but we just move forward. It's just coming together as a team. I have to be positive about it. If I'm positive then everyone else will be positive about it.''
The Irish have also dealt with the loss of first-year head coach Paul Sutherland and his staff. They have sat out three games this week while Catholic Principal Debra Sullivan looks into possible Secondary School Activities Commission violations.
In addition, 6-foot center Catherine Bandak, last year's leading scorer, and incoming freshman Peri Bailey were lost before the year started to knee injuries and Gallian, a junior starter, is just returning from a knee injury.
Fletcher said she is beginning to see the pieces come together.
"We're getting more post presence,'' she said. "Our guards are hitting shots. We're rebounding more. Our defense is getting better. We'll hopefully win a close game.''
Central scored the first 11 points Friday, but Catholic closed within eight points (24-16) on freshman Raegan Palmer's putback with 4:49 left in the second quarter. The Maroon Knights, though, scored the next eight points to go ahead 29-18 at halftime. Central maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way until the Irish netted the final six points of the game.