COLUMBIANA — The Colum-biana Clippers made a crucial attitude adjustment this past week. Having a week off allowed them to refocus following a disappointing three-game losing streak to end the regular season.
“It was actually nice not to have a game,” Clippers coach David Crismon said. “At this point, I look at it as a brand-new season. I have to take my hat off to our seniors who chose to rise up to that challenge and rallied everyone. I knew last night and this morning that they were ready.”
The third-seeded Clippers, who improve to 17-7, responded with a 54-43 victory over the sixth-seeded Ursuline Irish in a Division III sectional bracket final Saturday afternoon.
The game was much different than the first encounter between the two back in early December. In that contest, the Irish prevailed by a 49-30 score.
“We knew Columbiana was a good team and maybe they had a bad game and we had a good game,” Irish coach Michael Kernan said about that previous meeting. “We knew coming into today, that game didn’t mean much. In general, two good teams, one day going good for somebody and the next day it’s going good for the other.”
The Clippers started the contest with a 17-6 run before the Irish cut the deficit to 17-10 at the close of the period. The Clippers built a 27-16 lead with 2:57 remaining in the half, but Ursuline got back to within 32-25 at halftime.
However, the Clippers seized the momentum again to start the second half and opened a 40-26 lead with 5:30 left in the third frame. The Clippers held a 43-34 lead at the end of the quarter.
Cara McNally of the Irish hit a 3-pointer just 17 seconds into the fourth quarter to pull the Irish back to within 6 of the Clippers at 43-37. But the Clippers closed the game by outscoring the Irish 11-6.
“We have a pretty good 3-point shooting team,” Kernan said. “I felt that if we were within two or three shots, we’re in the game. We didn’t feel it was a huge difference, but we just never really strung it all together.
“Any time we made some sort of little run they answered with a shot, and we were just never were able to put things back to back or string things together. It just never happened.”