STEEL VALLEY CONFERENCE Ursuline claims first league title

Courtney Davidson had 20 points to lead the Irish past Warren Harding.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The best girls basketball program in the Valley never to win a league crown finally has a championship, but fans were hard-pressed to find much of a celebration.
Ursuline High, which has captured four Division III district titles in the last five years, posted a 63-39 victory over Warren Harding Thursday night. In doing so, the Irish (13-2, 3-0) clinched the 2003-04 Steel Valley Conference title, their first-ever.
Austintown Fitch, in 1994, was the last team other than Boardman to win the SVC title.
With Boardman and Fitch now in the Federal league, Harding, Ursuline and Mooney are in a more compact SVC.
"It's not quite the same, but it's nice for the program to have a league championship to go with the other success," Ursuline coach Sean Durkin said.
"To be honest, we didn't really talk about it or think about it much."
Senior Courtney Davidson understood why a party wasn't necessary.
"We have state championships in mind, so he's [Durkin] looking forward to bigger and better things," Davidson said.
"It's beautiful -- I've never [won] a [SVC] title, so it's great to accomplish one. You never take anything for granted, but we kinda figured we would have it."
Balanced attack
Davidson and sophomore Tyra Grant led the Irish with 20 and 18 points, respectively.
"Between the two, you have a show going on before your eyes," Warren Harding (9-5, 1-3) coach David Jenkins said. "They complement each other with their passes and shots, and they keep things focused."
Durkin knows.
"In high school girls basketball, with two weapons like that, it makes it very hard to defend," Durkin said. "And a couple of our other kids -- Vannessa Dickson and Cierra Bennett -- have been really stepping up lately."
Bennett finished with 10 points.
The Irish jumped out to leads of 11-2 and 19-12, only to see the Raiders respond.
But Ursuline closed the second quarter with a 9-0 run for a 28-16 lead that was too much for Warren Harding.
Shaking off rust
"We were certainly sluggish early," Durkin said. "With all the school closings, we haven't practiced since last Wednesday [although] we had a couple of games. We expected to be sluggish.
"Our intensity picked up and with that we seemed to get over a hump," he added. "Once we got that nice lead, our pressure defensively took Harding out of their game."
Davidson admitted it took two quarters to shake off some rust.
"We knew we couldn't take Harding for granted," Davidson said. "We knew it was going to be kind of a rough game trying to get back into the swing of things after a loss."
Jenkins is glad he no longer has to coach against Davidson.
"I'm so glad I'm through with her," Jenkins said with a smile. "I'm glad Courtney's going off to college and hopefully a professional career, but I never want to see her again on a basketball court playing against us.
"She's an exceptional young lady -- when you have [someone] of that caliber of person on and off the floor, you've got to love her," Jenkins said. "You can't do nothing but wish her the best."
Desirae Jenkins led the Raiders with 16 points.