PORTSMOUTH — Truth be told, this is not your Huntington St. Joseph Central Irish of old.
However, these are still indeed your defensive-minded, highly-touted and talented Notre Dame Lady Titans.
On Saturday, in the single girls basketball game as part of the Buckeye Elite Classic at Shawnee State University’s Waller Gymnasium, undefeated Notre Dame dominated from opening tip to final buzzer —and was never seriously challenged by the eight-member Lady Irish en route to a 54-11 rout.
With the win, the Lady Titans took their record to 5-0 —while Huntington St. Joseph, coached by Jessica Kern-Huff and wife of Marshall University head football coach Charles Huff, remained winless.
Before the age of the coronavirus, Huntington St. Joseph was always a state powerhouse in West Virginia —capturing multiple state championships, and even defeating much larger Class AA and even AAA teams in the Mountain State.
But these Lady Irish, unfortunately for them, have struggled —and Notre Dame’s defense was in complete control of the contest on Saturday.
Notre Dame scored the opening dozen points, never trailed or even came close to it, and even pitched a third-quarter shutout —with another near blanking in the fast-moving fourth quarter.
Speaking of the fourth quarter, as the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running clock consumed the entire period, the only Irish points of the entire second half were with a single minute remaining.
Those were two free throws from Sophie Ransbottom, which finally gave St. Joseph double digits.
For the game, the Lady Titans’ 22 takeaways turned into points on the other end —as St. Joseph shot just 3-of-26 from the field, including only one of nine three-point range.
For those into counting, that’s merely an 11-and-a-half percent shooting clip, but nothing new for the Lady Titans’ defensive gems.
In Southern Ohio Conference Division I play prior to Monday night against New Boston, Notre Dame had allowed only five points against Clay, 12 apiece against Symmes Valley and Western, and eight against East.
For NDHS, which offensively shot 51-percent on 22-of-43 including a sizzling 68-percent from inside the arc on 17-of-25, it was truly just another night at the defensive office.
“I thought we did a really good job defensively, despite being a little too handsy and picking up some cheap fouls. We were physical and I think it frustrated them. We wore on them as the night went, and to hold them to two points in the second half with no field goals, that’s a nice job defensively,” said Notre Dame head coach J.D. McKenzie. “We can still get better defensively, but it travels, and it’s going to keep us in games.”
On Saturday, it traveled just down a few Portsmouth city streets to Shawnee State University’s James A. Rhodes Athletic Center.
And, on a 94-foot floor, which is college basketball’s regulation length.
The Lady Irish’s only other points prior to the fourth-quarter free throws were Niko Kaufmann canning a three-pointer with a minute and 35 seconds left in the first period, baskets by Ramey George at the 5:05 and 1:15 marks of the second stanza, and two Kaufmann foul shots in between.
All of the Lady Titans which were available to play saw at least two minutes, with the starters actually playing into the fourth quarter —when Ella Kirby connected on two of her three three-point goals.
With Notre Dame’s first four games going to the running clock, the Lady Titans’ regular rotation has seldom seen fourth-quarter minutes.
“That’s the first time we’ve played a lot of minutes for our starters this year. But I wanted them to stretch out some and play into the third and fourth quarters,” said McKenzie. “Proud of everybody’s efforts tonight.”
Annie Dettwiller’s dozen points on five field goals and 2-of-5 freebies led a balanced Notre Dame attack, as she secured a double-double by grabbing 10 rebounds.
Defensively, the six-foot and one-inch senior standout Dettwiller deflected six passes — and made seven steals.
Kirby’s three second-half treys and second-quarter deuce resulted in 11 points, as Gracie Ashley almost had a double-double —with nine points on four field goals and nine boards.
Katie Strickland also made four baskets for eight points, as Bree Hicks had two buckets and 2-of-2 third-frame foul shots for six.
“Once we started getting post touches in the short corner and high post and hitting the diver, we got some easy looks down there in the paint and it opened things up,” said McKenzie. “If you’re getting stops defensively, sometimes you can away with a taking a bad shot or two.”
Kamryn Bradford bagged a first-half two and three for five points, and Annabelle Ball made a second-quarter three.
The Lady Titans travel again on Wednesday night —but this time the task to win will be much more difficult.
Notre Dame faces a good South Gallia Lady Rebels bunch, which defeated defending Division IV state champion Waterford just last week.
It’s also a district semifinal rematch, in which Notre Dame defeated the Lady Rebels in overtime, as the Lady Titans had no seniors last season —while South Gallia graduated just one.
Notre Dame also won a close encounter in the regular season, two days before New Year’s Day in fact, but this time the what-should-be epic clash takes place in “MercerVegas”.
“We’re excited to play them. They lost only one senior and they added the Lyons girl from Symmes Valley. They want to get out and press and get up and down and play zone and shoot a ton of threes and shoot it quick. Then we want to get them in a half-court set on both ends and utilize our size. Hopefully, force them into playing some man-to-man. We just have to patient and not turn the ball over,” said McKenzie. “It’s going to be a great test for us. We’re not excited about making the bus trip, but we’re excited about playing a quality opponent, especially in December.”
* * *
Huntington St. Joe 3 6 0 2— 11
Notre Dame 12 18 14 10 —54
HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 11 (0-4)
Ramey George 2 0-1 4, Chloe Lee 0 0-1 0, Sophie Ransbottom 0 2-2 2, Niko Kaufmann 1 2-2 5, Marely Muth 0 0-0 0, Campbell Lee 0 0-1 0, Jules Tankersley 0 0-0; TOTALS 3 4-7 11; Three-point field goals: 1 (Niko Kaufmann 1)
NOTRE DAME 54 (5-0)
Taylor Lasswell 0 0-0 0, Lilly Madden 0 0-0 0, Ella Kirby 4 0-0 11, Kamryn Bradford 2 0-0 5, Annie Dettwiller 5 2-5 12, Maycee Ford 0 0-0 0, Savannah Holtgrewe 0 0-0 0, Bree Hicks 2 2-2 6, Kailee Ogier 0 0-0 0, Alivia Taylor 0 0-0 0, Annabelle Ball 1 0-0 3, Kaylynn Darden 0 0-0 0, Mallory Boland 0 0-0 0, Gracie Ashley 4 1-2 9, Katie Strickland 4 0-0 8; TOTALS 22 5-9 54; Three-point field goals: 5 (Ella Kirby 3, Kamryn Bradford and Annabelle Ball 1 apiece)