The O'Connell girls basketball team didn't play well offensively at home yesterday, but still beat Paul VI, 52-32, in a Catholic Girls Athletic Association game.

The fourth-ranked Knights (16-3 overall, 10-0 in the CGAA) shot only 35.4 percent (19 of 57) from the field and 47.1 percent (eight of 17) from the foul line.

But O'Connell's defense forced the Panthers (15-6, 9-3) out of sync the entire game. Although Paul VI was able to work around the Knights' swarming full-court press, the Panthers were unable to work the ball inside for high-percentage shots.

O'Connell's best job was done against center Kara Ratliff, who was averaging 19 points a game. O'Connell rotated Jean Klepezyski, Cindy O'Connor and Kelly Millspaugh on Ratliff, who was held to five first-half points before scoring the remainder of her team-high 17 points after the game had been decided.

"We wanted to cut Kara off on the baseline," said Klepezyski, who had 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds. "So we tried to discourage her from shooting by getting right in her face."

"O'Connell had somebody in front of me the whole time," said Ratliff, whose team was held to 28.2 percent (12 of 42) shooting. "And it was hard to get around them, which is what I need to do to post up."

The Knights held Paul VI to five first-quarter points. Paul VI pulled to within 17-10 as Meredith Arnott scored with 4:12 remaining in the first half. But the Panthers were held scoreless the remainder of the quarter, and Christie Finney (game-high 25 points) then scored the final two baskets of the half and O'Connell led 21-10.

After Michaal Tuttle (nine points) opened the second half with a basket and Finney turned a steal into a three-pointer, O'Connell led 26-10 and was in complete control.

The Knights, two-time defending CGAA champions, won their fifth straight since losing by one point to Pennsylvania's Cardinal O'Hara. They have won 36 straight league games dating to the 1988-89 season, when they lost to Paul VI.

O'Connell has outscored league competition 724-312. It has not lost a league game by less than 18 points and has defeated CGAA teams by an average of 41.2 points.

"Sometimes it is kind of hard to get up for some of the games," said Finney. "But we still have goals. We want to win a third straight CGAA title. And since we know everyone we play is shooting for us because we're on top, we have to try to continue to play our best to stay there." P (15-6) -- Collins 3, Arnott 2, Ludwick 3, DeLaney 2, Irving 2, Ratliff 17, Lalli 3. Totals 13 6 32. O (16-3) -- Ch. Finney 25, Ca. Finney 7, Tuttle 9, McClellan 2, Klepezyzki 10, Spishak 2. Totals 23 8 52.

Halftime: O'Connell, 21-10.

Three-point goals: O'Connell 2 (Ch. Finney 2).