The Bishop Carroll players stormed off the court with a bit more edge than they might’ve following a normal regular-season victory, because this one was anything but.
The Golden Eagles had just beat Wichita South 52-39 on the road. It was the first time Carroll had beaten the six-time defending City League champions since Feb. 23, 2012.
“Coming into this game, it was one of those where you want to win every game, but you really want to win those where you haven’t quite gotten them yet,” Carroll coach Taylor Dugan said. “I think the girls tonight really played fearless, and when you play that way, you can do a lot of things.”
Senior forward Britney Ho finished with 24 points, including 15 coming in the second half. Like Ho’s late-starting performance, Carroll started sluggish and caught fire in the fourth quarter.
Carroll outscored South 13-3 in the final eight minutes.
“We want to rise to the occasion, rise above the standard and show everybody we can come back just as good as last year,” Ho said. “That’s what champions and winners do.”
Tuesday’s win was important for many reasons. Carroll is coming off a Class 5A championship game appearance. South reached the 6A semifinals a year ago.
Since then, Carroll hasn’t lost much, graduating only one senior in Ashton McCorry. And South lost one of the greatest girls basketball coaches in City League history in Antwain Scales.
Scales led the Titans to four straight state titles from 2013-16 before moving on to coach at Colby Community College. With Carroll on the ascent and South missing its legendary coach, the City League power was in limbo heading into Tuesday.
While Scales was at South, he established a winning culture that was respected almost to the point of mind games. Ho said South’s dominance was always in the back of their heads.
“Every time we play them, we kind of have this energy, but once they get ahead, it’s a mental thing,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the grit, and that’s what they’ve had more than us for the past couple of years.”
Dugan resounded much of the same, and she said she saw some of those lasting effects through three quarters, missing easy layups or lapsing on defense. But with the Golden Eagles’ outstanding fourth quarter, Dugan said her 2018-19 team could be different.
“Playing a team with the history they have, if you don’t come in a little fearless, you’re going to be in trouble,” she said. “But we recovered.”
As for South, the Titans are 0-2 after Tuesday’s loss and a season-opening defeat at Wichita East — two high-caliber opponents who figure to fight for the league title.
First-year coach David Clark said he has been looking for a high school coaching job for years after spending eight years coaching at Wilbur Middle School. He said he is so thankful to the Titan administration and that he looks forward to helping his players better themselves.
“The only pressure that I feel is pressure that I put on myself,” Clark said. “I have to drown out the noise from the nay-sayers or people who don’t believe in me. I’m going to surround myself with people who do believe in me and understand what I’m trying to do. I can’t be Antwain. His records will probably remain. All I can be is coach Clark.”
The Titans are not out of the running to make it seven straight, but they will need some help. With senior leaders Aerihna Afoa and Brittanie Brickhouse, South still knows how to win. Scales’ culture isn’t far removed.
Scales was at the Titans’ opening-night loss Thursday. He made the four-hour drive east with a game at Butler on Saturday night. He said he “had to” be there.
“I bleed South,” Scales said. “That was a program that I ressurected, and so my heart will always be with South.”
Scales said he was pulling for Clark to get the South job and looks forward to his success with the program.
But for now, Carroll has a leg up on the six-time defending City League champs.
“We’re cooking up something special this year,” Ho said.