By Ken Lay
It didn’t take Knoxville Catholic High School girls basketball coach Travis Mains long to figure out just how special the Irish’s rivalry with Webb School of Knoxville is.
In fact, he knew as soon as the Lady Irish and Lady Spartans landed in the same region after TSSAA re-alignment and his team began discussing the renewal of the rivalry that resumed Friday night after a seven-year hiatus.
“They’ve talked about it for months and months,” Mains said of the Lady Irish.
Well, Friday night, all the talking stopped and the Lady Irish went to work and picked up their first victory over Webb, a 46-38 win, in recent memory.
The Lady Spartans swept Catholic in 2014-15 when the Lady Irish were a struggling program.
But there weren’t many struggles for Catholic against Webb last week.
“This was a big-time win for these kids. They came out and jumped on them and we held on in the second half and it was a total team effort,” Mains said. “This is my first time coaching in a Catholic-Webb game and I’ve been in rivalry games before. But this one is different. It’s special.
“This is what memories are made of, and they made one tonight.”
Indeed, Catholic, which played in the Division II-AA State Championship Game in 2021, did as the game was played before a spirited near-capacity crowd at Catholic High School.
The Lady Irish opened a 26-15 lead at halftime and never led by less than seven points after the break.
Sophomore wing player Sydney Mains (the coach’s daughter), scored 25 points for the Lady Irish (12-6 overall, 1-0 in Division II-AA East Region play) and junior guard Jaz Williams added 12 to lead Catholic to a monumental victory.
Defensively, Ella Renfree was a force, particularly in the second half, as she blocked several shots.
“Ella Renfree really stepped up for us,” Coach Mains said. “I don’t know how many blocks she had but I’m so proud of her.”
On Friday, Catholic trailed the Lady Spartans (10-8, 0-1) just once as it fell behind 2-0 when Webb’s Shae Berry’s bucket accounted for the first points of the contest.
Madelyn Ladd led the Lady Spartans with 14 points while Berry added 11.
The rivalry is now renewed it will add at least one more chapter this season as Catholic will tangle with the Lady Spartans at Webb’s Lee Athletic Center on Friday, Jan. 28.
Things won’t get much easier for the Lady Irish as they travel to Chattanooga to face Girls Preparatory school Tuesday night.
“This is a big win for us, but we’ve got another big one, another league game Tuesday against GPS at GPS,” Coach Mains said. “They’re good.”