SUGAR GROVE — Simply put, a long bus ride to just south of Lancaster was just the start of a long afternoon for the Notre Dame Lady Titans.
Facing the undefeated Berne Union Lady Rockets, in a highly-anticipated end of the regular season non-league Division IV Saturday showdown, the Lady Titans never led —and actually never really revved up the offensive engine.
While Notre Dame’s defense fared well with limiting Berne Union to under 40 points and 36-percent (15-of-42) shooting, the Lady Titans tallied a season-low in points —and only amounted single digits in two of the four cantos.
The end result was a frustrating and “one of those rough days” 39-31 loss, as Notre Dame dropped only its second contest in 20 total games played.
The other occurred on Jan. 18 against Ashland (Ky.), but Kentucky’s Kittens are an Ohio equivalent to Division II —and Annabelle Ball didn’t play in that game because of a school function mandating attendance.
This time, in a matchup of Top 10 teams in the Associated Press Ohio Girls Basketball Division IV statewide poll, the Lady Titans tied the game at 3-3 only a minute and 12 seconds in —on a Kamryn Bradford three-point goal which answered the opening one by Berne Union’s Hannah Brown.
But beyond that, as Newfound Glory once sang, it was unfortunately for the Lady Titans all downhill from here.
As the Lady Rockets, raising their perfect record to 21-0 before finishing the regular season at 22-0, are one of the top Division IV defensive clubs in the entire state —Notre Dame did need to dial it up a notch offensively, as the Lady Titans’ calling card is indeed defense as well.
But they didn’t do that in quarters one and three, and were outscored for those eight-minute marks by a combined 24-10.
Otherwise, they won the second stanza 10-7 — and the final salvo 11-8.
That wasn’t going to get it done against the Lady Rockets, said veteran NDHS head coach J.D. McKenzie afterward.
He focused a lot of attention, of course, on the outset of the game.
“We didn’t get a good start, and everything that could have went wrong did go wrong in that first quarter,” said McKenzie. “We had some opportunities early that we didn’t capitalize on, and they came out and started shooting it really well, like 8-for-8 from the field. We made some poor decisions with the basketball and got behind. I about called a timeout earlier and I didn’t. When I did, we talked about trying to run an offense and being patient, but we weren’t. We didn’t do much of anything we normally do.”
One free throw from Gracie Ashley and two by Ball were the Lady Titans’ only other first-period points — as Notre Dame trailed 16-6 following the opening quarter and 23-16 at halftime.
The Lady Rockets then doubled up ND 8-4 in the third —even advancing its advantage to its largest at 29-16 halfway through.
The Lady Titans trailed 31-20 following three frames, as their only third-period points were an Ella Kirby basket at the 3:47 juncture —and two Annie Dettwiller free throws two minutes and 21 seconds later.
Dettwiller was whistled for three first-half fouls and went scoreless, and played the entire fourth quarter with her fourth —as she did score her four field goals with an old-fashioned three-point play in the last, and Katie Strickland scored inside for a 32-25 deficit with four minutes to go.
However, the Lady Rockets responded 30 seconds later — getting a Baylee Mirgon three-point play for another double-digit lead.
The Lady Titans, thrice from there, reduced the deficit to eight (35-27, 37-29 and 39-31), but got no closer.
“All three of our first-half fouls were called on Annie (Dettwiller), but I thought we did a pretty good job without Annie cutting into the lead and got it down to single digits,” said McKenzie. “Had a chance to get it down to five or more, but we didn’t.”
Dettwiller’s 11 points paced Notre Dame, as Ball bucketed seven in the opening half —on two baskets and 3-of-3 free throws.
Ashley went 3-of-4 for the first-half charity stripe, and Kirby chipped in a second-quarter deuce and a third-quarter trey.
But the Lady Titans took only 26 shots including seven threes, compared to 42 for the Lady Rockets and 14 trifecta tries.
Notre Dame committed 16 turnovers to Berne Union’s seven, as only Dettwiller and Ball corralled an offensive rebound —compared to 10 for the Lady Rockets as part of 22 total.
“It just wasn’t a very good day for us in a lot of aspects, but especially offensively,” said McKenzie. “We just gave them a lot of extra opportunities.”
Especially six-foot and two-inch senior Sophia Kline, who poured in 18 points on seven field goals and 4-of-6 foul shots —with 3-of-4 free throws coming in the fourth quarter.
Her double-double included 11 rebounds, seven of which were offensive —as she scored 13 in the first half, including an old-fashioned three-point play for the Lady Rockets’ first 10-point lead (14-4).
“She (Kline) is really really good and she really hurt us in the first half,” said McKenzie.
Mirgon added a dozen points —on a two-pointer apiece in the bookend periods, a three-pointer apiece in the middle two quarters, and 2-of-4 second-half free throws.
Abbi Evans on two field goals and Olivia Cooper on a fourth-quarter rebound putback rounded out the Berne Union scoring, as the Lady Rockets held a 15-10 advantage in total field goals.
Notre Dame, having defeated non-league Vinton County 64-39 on Monday night, was set to wrap up its Southern Ohio Conference Division I and regular-season slate on Thursday —with a makeup matchup at Ironton St. Joseph.
The Lady Titans are already, for the ninth consecutive season, outright SOC I champions —but their eyes are already on a potential rematch with the Lady Rockets.
That would take place in the Division IV Region 15 semifinals at Pickerington North.
And for the Lady Titans, they plan on much better — and banner — days ahead.
“It just seemed like nothing went right today, and we talked after the game that we probably learned more about them than they did about us,” said McKenzie. “We’re thinking we’re going to see them again, and I think they will see a different Notre Dame team the next time. Hopefully, we do get to see them again and do some different things. If you’re not thinking you want to play them again, you are probably in the wrong locker room. We know we didn’t play well today. Did we do some good things here and there? Yes, but not enough of them, and you can’t give a good team like that extra opportunities. It’s frustrating because we wanted to be better, but hopefully we have another shot at them. These girls are resilient and will be back.”
* * *
Notre Dame 6 10 4 11 —31
Berne Union 16 7 8 8— 39
NOTRE DAME 31 (18-2)
Ella Kirby 2 0-0 5, Kamryn Bradford 1 0-0 3, Annie Dettwiller 4 3-3 11, Annabelle Ball 2 3-3 7, Gracie Ashley 0 3-4 3, Katie Strickland 1 o-0 2; TOTALS 10 9-10 31; Three-point field goals: 2 (Ella Kirby and Kamryn Bradford 1 apiece)
BERNE UNION 39 (21-0)
Abbi Evans 2 0-0 4, Hannah Brown 1 0-0 3, Sophia Kline 7 4-6 18, Baylee Mirgon 4 2-4 12, Olivia Cooper 1 0-0 2, Morgan Cutright 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 15 6-10 39; Three-point field goals: 3 (Baylee Mirgon 2, Hannah Brown 1)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved