The Dublin Scioto High School girls basketball team prides itself on playing relentless defense, and the statistics back that up.
The Irish held opponents to 45.5 points per game last season when they finished 13-8 overall and second (10-3) in the OCC-Cardinal Division behind champion Olentangy (13-1). In winning three of their first four games this season, opponents averaged 40 points.
But that steadiness hasn't been there in every game this season, which led to back-to-back losses to Mount Vernon (57-52 on Dec. 11) and Westerville North (63-44 on Dec. 14).
"We've had spurts of great hustle on defense and then there are periods of two or three minutes where our defense is terrible," said point guard Anna Buhigas, whose team is 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal entering a Friday, Dec. 21, home game against Dublin Jerome. "It's difficult in knowing that we've scored 50 some points and then given up more than that."
Even more troubling to coach Matt Fisher was the fourth quarter against North, which outscored the Irish 20-9.
In both losses, Scioto allowed three players to score in double figures.
"Defensive consistency has been an issue the past couple of games due mostly to lazy fouls and being out of position," Fisher said. "But defense remains a focal point and our strength. It's a very complicated system and some of our inexperienced players are still working toward jelling with our veterans."
To keep up their defensive intensity, the Irish have utilized a nine-player rotation, with the top eight averaging comparable minutes.
Post player Kathleen Thorndal, forward Alex Mielke and guard Rachel Willis have been leaders on defense, Fisher said.
While Buhigas is averaging 15 points, forwards Bri Prichett and Katie Collins and guard Camille McLellan also have contributed, with each averaging about seven points.
"I give Camille a lot of credit," guard Casey Suich said. "She's not afraid to take it to the hoop and she's been impressive so far as a freshman."
Guard Abbie Moore hit key shots in victories over Watterson (41-36 in overtime Nov. 27) and Worthington Kilbourne (59-51 on Nov. 30), and Suich has been "a playmaker who never gets rattled," Fisher said.
Scioto expects its man-to-man defense to be tested against Jerome, which improved to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the league with a 48-40 win over Hilliard Darby on Dec. 14.
The Celtics have size in post players Sarah Auker (5-foot-11), Kathleen McCoy (5-11), Hannah Gibbs (6-1) and Madison Watson (6-0).
Scioto won both meetings last season, 47-42 and 37-34.
"Jerome can flat-out shoot it," Fisher said.
"They have quite a few players who can shoot the 3 and mid-range jumper. They're a tough team and very fundamentally sound."
The Irish won't get a rest from the OCC-Cardinal schedule in facing Westerville South on Saturday, Dec. 22, in a game that was moved from Dec. 18 because of final exams.
South improved to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the league with a 33-23 win over Hilliard Bradley on Dec. 14.