St. Pauls roller coaster season continued along its dizzying course last week, but unfortunately the Bucks experienced more of the lows than the highs after falling 48-40 to premier non-league opponent Damascus Christian and 38-27 to heated rival Perrydale.
Head coach Mike Murphys squad opened with a resounding 57-15 victory over Jewell Jan. 21, with Emma Coleman and Cassidy Merten leading the way with 10 points apiece.
Hosting No. 2 Damascus Christian on Jan. 23, St. Paul found itself in a battle.
But when the Eagles pushed their lead to double digits in the fourth quarter, the Bucks could not find urgency or execute well enough offensively to close the gap.
In both losses, St. Paul suffered for its lack of a singular and dynamic go-to player that can take the reins of the offense with the pressure on, which the Bucks have had in previous seasons, most recently in 2013 grad Natalie Stone.
I thought our kids played really well defensively, Murphy said. We did an adequate job on offense, but down the stretch, those kids hadnt been in that situation before and we couldnt get them to realize you have to get a quick shot. Overall, I thought we played one of our better games of the year.
Sara Pierson led St. Paul with 15 points versus Damascus, but offensively, the Bucks crumbled Friday at Perrydale, perhaps affected by the busy schedule.
Still, the game was close going into the fourth, but Perrydale made a series of shots to pull ahead and made its free throws down the stretch.
Our kids couldve just quit, but they didnt, Murphy said. They cut the lead to six points after (Perrydale) got it up to 12 or 13. The kids battled and offensively, in that game, we struggled quite a bit. We just couldnt get anything to go in and had too many turnovers, yet we still had an opportunity to win the game.
Pierson, who has been a consistent performer in her senior season, led the squad with 13 points.
With the win, Perrydale (10-6 overall, 6-2 Casco League) moved into a tie for second place with St. Paul, but by virtue of its 49-31 win over league-leading Country Christian, owns the tiebreaker over the Bucks (9-9, 6-2) should the two teams finish in a two-way tie.
That means Murphys team will have to win its final six games, including a rematch with the Cougars (12-5, 7-1) on Friday, in order to have a shot at the No. 1 seed at the district tournament, which could provide a vital advantage when it comes times to seeding for the state tournament.
Every game from this point on is important for us and we have to approach them one at a time and see how we do, Murphy said. Im still confident theyll respond. Theyre great kids, they work hard and one of these days theyll put a whole game together. Hopefully, it will be more than one down the stretch here.