Rosati-Kain reignites season with win vs. Kennedy

The high school basketball game against Rosati-Kain was looking good for Kennedy Catholic Dec. 14 until it rained.

Rained three-point shots, that is.

Rosati-Kain combined strong defense and rebounding with the three-pointers to overtake Kennedy 40-29 in the Archdiocesan Athletic Association game for Rosati-Kain's first win of the season. Sam Bogard's hard work under the basket propelled Kennedy to a 10-4 lead, but Rosati-Kain's Shannon Theobald and Emily Cataldo hit back-to-back threes and Marissa Jones scored on a layup to put Rosati-Kain on top. The half ended with Rosati-Kain leading 14-13.

Theobald, who hit four three-point shots and led her team with 14 points, said she doesn't dwell on the shots during the game: "It just kind of happens."

The win will keep the team motivated as the season goes on, especially in games when they are seen as the underdog or as having no chance to win, Theobald noted. "Rosati is the underdog in pretty much every sport, so we're trying to come out here and change that."

Rosati-Kain extended the lead in the second half, twice hitting back-to-back three-pointers. After being down by 15 points, Kennedy came within 7 points before Rosati-Kain pulled ahead again.

Valerie Murphy, a senior at Rosati-Kain, praised her team for "always fighting and sticking with it." The players could have been frustrated when they faced adversity, she said, but instead remained calm and stuck together.

The players "trust each other, pick each other back up when we're down," said Murphy, who had three points, a steal, two assists and five rebounds. "We're really good friends on and off the court, so that plays into it as well."

Rosati-Kain coach Shawn Benedict said the staff has stressed the need to take quality shots and getting into a rhythm rather than shooting right away. At halftime, he urged his players to keep the pressure on Kennedy. "This was a good test, more our caliber basketball, against a similar size, similar talent team."

Benedict has urged his team to get over early season hurdles against tough teams. As a first-year coach, he has brought a new philosophy "and it takes about a month to change habits. Once they get on board, we'll be OK," he said.

He asks his players to focus on performing tasks. "Once we start doing that, our girls will pick it up pretty fast," he said, naming two junior guards, Theobald and Raegan Bruce, who have the talent and technical skills to excel. Bruce scored 12 points.

Kennedy's coach Pete Vogel said his team, 3-4 so far, had some challenges early on, but he likes the group and how they enjoy playing together. "I appreciate the hard work that they put out there. We give a valiant effort, and that's all I can really ask for," he said.

Kennedy has five seniors, and Vogel said "it's nice to have girls who know what's going on when the new season rolls around. They will be sorely missed next year."

He praised Rosati-Kain's team for its outside three-point shooters and its defense.

Melissa Schmittgens, a senior guard for Kennedy, lamented the loss but said "we didn't stop fighting. Our defense looked really good ... and I was proud of our team because we worked hard."

The players will strive to get better offensively, Schmittgens noted. "I'm excited looking forward to the season, just seeing what we can do against other teams across the city."

Schmittgens said her faith connects her with her classmates and even opponents such as Rosati-Kain, which also is a faith-filled community. "For me, sports lets me get away from everything, which is really nice. I get to see my abilities outside the classroom in another perspective, with teamwork, which is what life is about."

Also having played for the soccer team at Kennedy, Schmittgens had a rough freshman year when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy treatments, playing sports through part of that process. She has been cancer-free now for more than two and a half years. The Kennedy community has provided a lot of support, she said, "and it's fun to play out on the court for them."

Benedict said he's used to praying before games along with stated intentions, and his players have picked it up well. Murphy said that even during games, "it's important to remember to think about your faith in God and how He's always with us as a team. As an individual, it helps keep me positive as well." Theobald added that "when we come out on the court, it's like we're playing for those people we pray for."

Kennedy came from behind to win its previous game, Dec. 11 against Crossroads College Prep 29-20, with Schmittgens and Bogard combining for 28 steals and Abby Schueppert leading with 11 points. 

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