Should the Bishop Ludden girls basketball team not earn the OHSL Liberty division regular-season title, it can mostly point to the fact that, on two different occasions, it could not get past Jordan-Elbridge.
The Eagles completed a regular-season sweep by going to Geddes Monday night and, fueled by terrific defense, beating the Gaelic Knights 42-36.
With that defeat, Ludden fell out of its first-place tie with Westhill in the OHSL Liberty, leaving the Warriors alone at the top - for the moment, anyway.
They had first played on Dec. 18, at J-E, where the Eagles rallied in the fourth quarter to prevail 71-63 -- this just two days before head coach Leslie Ahern gave birth to her son.
In that first game, the inside presence of Molly Hourigan (seven blocks, six of them in the second half) helped turn the game around. She would prove important in the rematch, too -- but the rest of her J-E teammates would also shine on the defensive side.
The Eagles (10-4, 8-4 league) inched ahead 13-8 after one period, and matched Ludden's production in the second period, so it went to halftime nursing a 26-21 lead.
As it turned out, the third quarter may have decided the outcome. J-E slumped on the offensive side, giving the Gaelic Knights a long-term chance to catch up.
But with Hourigan, Kali Davis, Liz Caspari Kelsey Richardson, Natalie Andrianos, Grace Dungey and Amanda Wheeler working in an effective seven-player rotation, J-E nearly blanked Ludden in that quarter, only allowing three points.
J-E's perimeter defense limited Ludden from utilizing it greatest strength -- namely, 3-point shooting. In particular, 1,000-point scorer Ashley Cianfriglia got contained, as she had just seven points, not even half her 16.2 points-per game average.
All the way to the end, J-E would nurse its lead. Hourigan led both sides with 12 points, while Davis gained nine points and Caspari had seven points. Natalie Barletta led the Gaelic Knights with 11 points.