Irish eyes not smiling
Charleston Catholic is no stranger to success in Class A basketball.
After all, the Irish have made it to the state tournament championship game eight times in the previous nine seasons, winning three titles.
But they appeared extremely vulnerable Saturday in a 56-53 home loss to Linsly, a game in which Catholic held a 15-point lead midway through the third quarter.
Linsly, a Class A-sized private school from Wheeling, made just 4 of 19 shots in the first quarter and was on the ropes most of the night before a fourth-quarter charge won it. Catholic entered the game 103-5 at home since its Athletic Complex opened in the 2004-05 season.
The Irish (4-1) return a pair of decorated players in senior all-staters Nick George (forward) and Garret McCarty (guard), but lost six seniors and return little in the way of other experience, which was evident on Saturday.
McCarty (22 points) and George (17) had 39 of the team's 53 points as only six players saw extensive minutes.
"We're a quarter of the way through the season,'' said Irish coach Bill McClanahan, "but we've still got 15, 17 more regular-season games to play, so we've got steps we've got to take for those other guys. But it starts in practice, and it starts with attitude and effort. We're going to try to get back to some things.''
Aside from McCarty and Miller, only six other players ever appeared in a varsity game last year and they combined for a season total of 55 points.
Some snapshots of Saturday's game certainly didn't look like the Irish of old:
n In the third quarter, against minimal backcourt pressure, Catholic inbounded the ball to no one in particular and the ball bounced aimlessly on the floor for a few seconds.
n In a half-court offensive set, George growled at a teammate who was in the wrong position to provide a screen so he could drive, and frantically waved him aside.
n Playing a zone defense, the Irish had no one within 6 feet of Linsly guard Colton Coss, who had already hit one 3-pointer and was somehow standing alone at the top of the key. Coss got the ball, looked things over for a couple of beats, took a shot and swished it.
McClanahan said a change of intensity when the team returns to practice should help correct some of the flaws.
"And if it doesn't,'' he said, "I'll find five guys in that locker room that will make this program well-represented. Whether it's my five best or not will be entirely up to them." But it will be five young men who go out and bring pride to this program.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.