JACKSON – The Notre Dame Lady Titans had a very successful season, but unfortunately for the Lady Titans and their fans, their season came to an end Thursday evening at Jackson High School. While playing the Waterford Lady Wildcats in the Division IV District Finals, Notre Dame was unable to battle back from an early deficit.
Waterford got off to a tremendous start, which Notre Dame couldn’t stop. As the Lady Wildcats continued to roll, the game got further and further out of reach for the Lady Titans, who despite losing 65-26, continued to fight valiantly.
“We got beat by a real good team tonight, that plays at a high level,” Notre Dame coach JD McKenzie said. “We got off to an OK start and then we turned the ball over a bunch, which led to easy baskets. You can’t do that to a team that good, you just can’t do that, and that was our downfall tonight, not being able to handle their pressure.”
Waterford used a full press for the entirety of the game. The press caused a lot of troubles for Notre Dame, and led to multiple turnovers. Aside from turning the ball over, McKenzie said the press caused his squad to play at a faster pace than they have been accustomed to all season.
“We tried to work on that all week, handling their pressure,” McKenzie said. “They got us to play faster than we wanted to, and that was probably one of the big differences in the game. They controlled the tempo and forced us to do things we didn’t want to do.”
McKenzie said it is hard to mimic the type of pressure Waterford uses, especially since very few teams used that style of defense against the Lady Titans during the regular season.
“We did the best we could trying to do that (prepare for the press),” McKenzie said. “We didn’t get pressed a whole lot, and didn’t see a whole lot of pressure all the time, it’s difficult. That’s about all I can say, it’s just difficult to prepare for. We thought we did a good job preparing for it and worked hard, but we just made a bunch of mistakes.”
McKenzie hopes the younger members of the Lady Titans will be able to learn from this game, as Notre Dame will look to have another successful season next year.
Notre Dame ran into trouble early as Waterford got started with a 5-0 run.
Lexie Smith got the Lady Titans right back into the game as she drove to the basket getting a score and the foul. She would hit her free throw, getting a three-point play the old fashioned way for Notre Dame, and cutting Waterford’s lead to two points 5-3.
From there, Waterford went on a 4-0 run until the Lady Titans were able to kill the run with a score of their own. Ali Smith would bring Notre Dame to just a point shy of Waterford, 9-8 after hitting a three with about 5:31 left in the first quarter.
That would be as close as Notre Dame would get to erasing Waterford’s lead for the remainder of the game.
From there, Waterford began to control the game on both offense and defense, and jumped out to a 15-point lead over Notre Dame, 25-10 by the end of the first quarter.
The rest of the game mimicked the opening period, as Waterford continued to cause problems for Notre Dame.
By halftime, Notre Dame had been limited to only four second quarter points, and faced a mountain of a deficit, 42-14.
The third quarter showed some more difficulties for Notre Dame who again couldn’t break the double figure threshold of points scored in the period. At the end of the period, the Lady Titans trailed the Lady Wildcats 56-21.
In the fourth quarter, Notre Dame found significantly more success on defense, holding the Lady Wildcats to only nine points, but just unable to overcome their staggering point deficit.
In the end, Notre Dame would fall to Waterford 65-26, ending their season.
JD McKenzie and the Lady Titans will say goodbye to two seniors this year, Ragen Kayser and Audri Graf.
“I hate this time every year, because you’re saying goodbye to two seniors who have been a part of the program for four years, and have won three SOC titles, four sectional titles, and got to the district finals,” McKenzie said. “They’ve been very successful and great leaders, and you just hate to see them go.”
McKenzie said his squad is very close to the outgoing seniors, just as he is.
“The younger girls look up to them and you hate to lose that, and you wish them all the best,” McKenzie said. “I know they’re going to do great things in the future, because they’re just great kids. Ragen and Audri both are just two sweet girls that I think of as my own daughters and I treat them like that, and they treat me like a father. I hate to lose them.”
The future is bright according to McKenzie.
“We’re bringing back a lot of young girls, who got a lot of minutes this year,” McKenzie said. “We’re excited about the future, obviously, because we’re bringing a lot back. I hope we can make some noise next year, and get out of here (district round).”
Waterford – Kern 7-1-18, Porter 6-3-15, Drayer 5-2-12, Duff 3-1-7, Starkey 2-2-6, Roush 2-0-4, McCutcheon 1-0-3
Notre Dame – Schaefer 4-0-8, L. Smith 3-2-8, Kayser 2-0-4, A. Smith 1-0-3, Dettwiller 1-0-2, Ball 0-1-1
Three-point field goals – Waterford 4 (Kern 3, McCutcheon) Notre Dame 1 (A. Smith)
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.