Loughlin starts new year with new confidence — and a victory

Loughlin starts new year with new confidence — and a victory
Community News Group / Laura Amato

New Year, new Loughlin.

The Bishop Loughlin girls’ basketball team struggled early in the season, but the Lady Lions are hoping to turn a page after the calendar flipped to 2017. The squad got off to a solid start on Jan. 2, taking down St. Joseph Hill 79–70 in a non-league matchup.

“Hopefully it can make us play this way all the time,” Loughlin coach Chez Williams said of the win. “We can’t afford to take off plays — everything we do has to be consistent, and it has to be team-oriented.”

The squad (2–5) came out firing on all cylinders, jumping out to a 23–16 lead after the first quarter, but St. Joseph Hill answered in the next period.

The Hilltoppers got a burst of offense from guard Trish Conroy, who opened up the second period with seven straight points. St. Joseph Hill notched a 13–2 run in the first four minutes of the second and left the Lady Lions looking for answers on the defensive side of the ball.

Loughlin found that answer rather quickly — in the form of a tough, full-court press. The attack brought a stifling pressure from every angle — the Lady Lions forced a handful of late-half turnovers and the rivals went into the break knotted at 34.

“My hat goes off to St. Joseph Hill,” Williams said. “They played us tough, but we were able to get through it, and we’ve got to continue to play like that.”

It wasn’t perfect down the stretch — St. Joseph Hill opened up the second half on a nine-point run — but Loughlin found a bit of confidence in its defensive attack, and its on-court leaders’ late-game performance.

Lynette Taitt led the charge in the third quarter, racking up 12 of the Lady Lions’ 16 points that period, while Laysha de la Santos chipped in the other four. The two pushed the ball out in transition — even setting each other up for shots — and, unlike the first half, they didn’t settle for quick jumpers. It was a change that Williams felt turned the course of the game.

“The decision making has to keep improving,” he said. “They have to be better shots and good shots. We can’t just shoot the ball whenever. We’re not a good rebounding team, so the shots we take have to be better shots.”

Taitt and de la Santos both kept up the scoring effort in the fourth quarter — combining for 23 points — but Loughlin also spread the ball out, a team-effort the Lady Lions squad knows it will need heading back into league play.

“I think we were looking more for each other as opposed to trying to do it by ourselves,” Williams said. “And I think when that happens and you start working together, it all works.”

It hasn’t been a picture-perfect season for the Lady Lions, but a victory like this is enough to give Loughlin a bit of extra confidence. This team knows what it has to do to win — now it’s just a matter of making sure they stay on track.

“We’re trying to establish an identity,” Williams said. “We’re young and people are learning how to be leaders. The more they’ll play, the more they’ll get a better understanding of what they have to do.”