Fans were treated to a show Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the Tri State Hoops Throwdown at Fairland High School.
The first varsity game of the event pitted the Nelsonville-York Buckeyes against the Notre Dame Titans in a girls basketball battle, and the Titans came out on top 64-47.
Notre Dame started the game at a disadvantage without senior Lexi Smith, who was sidelined with an injury. Smith is averaging 15.2 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game.
“Lexi just gives us a different look with her height and physicality, especially her speed and spreading the floor,” Titans head coach J.D. McKenzie said.
Even without Smith in the starting lineup, McKenzie and the Titans stuck to their roots on offense in terms of play call.
“We didn’t change what we do,” McKenzie said. “We still ran the same offense, same set plays and stuff like that. Clara [Hash] and Claire [Dettwiller] did a nice job filling in for her.”
Hash had eight points and six rebounds, and Claire Dettwiller added four points and four boards.
Beyond those two, Notre Dame was able to get a big lift from several other key players.
Junior center Katie Dettwiller had a monster game with 22 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks despite only playing around two and a half quarters because of foul trouble.
“She was just an animal today, she stepped up big in the absence of Lexi,” McKenzie said.
A big component of Dettwiller’s success was the play of her guards, who were able to find her down low with precision passes throughout the day.
Molly Hoover, Taylor Schmidt, Ali Smith, and Ava Hassel all stepped up from their guard positions to change the overall facet of the game.
“Guards as a unit, I don’t normally separate and say this one or that one,” McKenzie said. “Molly, Taylor, Ava, and Ali are four great guards and a good unit. Normally you don’t have any letup with them, they got after it today and did a good job distributing the basketball.”
Hassel stood out, as the freshman posted 17 points, six rebounds, six assists, and three steals. She was named the Rickey Shifko Player of the Game when it was all said and done.
Schmidt also came up big with nine points, four rebounds, and six assists. Ali Smith added four points, a rebound, and an assist, and Hoover had a rebound and two assists as well.
The Titans took over the game and were able to coast throughout after a commanding start to the first quarter.
After Jessie Addis tied the game at two, a putback from Katie Dettwiller with 5:59 to play gave Notre Dame a 4-2 lead, and the Titans wouldn’t trail from that point on.
Katie Dettwiller helped set the tone early, scoring 10 of Notre Dame’s 20 first quarter points.
Through one quarter, the Titans looked tough to slow down with a 20-9 lead, a major key to their success according to their head coach.
“Nelsonville is one of the better teams we’ve played this year and for them to get off to a good start and execute and get some stops, I think that’s huge for us going forward,” McKenzie said.
Notre Dame continued to get out and run in the second quarter, at times making the contest look more like a track meet.
Throughout the second, it was Hassel who helped stretch the lead for her team. With 3:55 to go before the break, Hassel followed a screen from Hash and dashed to her left, floating up a shot and fending off contact to finish at the rim. The freshman drew a foul, and finished at the stripe to give the Titans a 30-16 advantage.
Hassel had two more possessions where she showcased her lockdown defense and scoring ability late in the period.
With 35 seconds left, she would hit a layup to make the score 35-20. Then, without taking a break, Hassel ripped the ball away from the offense and went coast to coast for another lay in.
The Buckeyes were able to get a late basket from Kyla Henderson before the break, but still trailed the Titans 37-22 at the half.
“In the first half, we scored a lot in transition,” McKenzie said. “We got some stops, we held them to one shot and got some big rebounds, and got out in transition which was big for us.”
A 15-point lead was just too much to overcome for Nelsonville-York in the final two quarters, though they nearly matched the output of Notre Dame in the second half scoring wise.
Addis was an asset to her Buckeyes in the third, scoring eight of their 11 points in the period. She was able to attack the basket more frequently with Katie Dettwiller sidelined because of foul trouble.
Though Addis scored 22 points overall, McKenzie liked the way Hassel was able to defend Addis whenever the two were matched up.
“Ava did a good job,” McKenzie said. “She did a good job guarding [Addis] who I don’t know if anyone can actually guard, that girl is pretty good.”
As the third quarter buzzer sounded, Addis sank a floater to make the score 48-33 in favor of the Titans.
Still not out of the game by any means, Nelsonville-York gained some confidence when Mary-Kate McCulloch canned a jumper with 7:01 to play. Sensing a potential lapse, McKenzie called for a timeout and inserted Katie Dettwiller back into the game.
Dettwiller scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a span in the middle of the action where the junior scored six straight to help close out the comeback efforts from the Buckeyes.
“When we were able to bring Katie back in, they just kept feeding her the ball,” McKenzie said. “They didn’t have an answer for her.”
Though Nelsonville-York made a valiant effort, they were just too far behind late to make any relevant noise.
Mixed with a stingy defense and consistent offense in the second half, Notre Dame secured a 64-47 win.
“In the second half, we got some easy buckets off transition again with turnovers and stuff like that,” McKenzie said. “I thought defensively we played very well.”
The victory now pushes Notre Dame’s record to 15-0 so far this year, including a 12-0 mark in SOC I play.
With only seven games to play in the regular season, the Titans appear poised to finish undefeated heading into tournament time.
Notre Dame features a bevy of talent and a deep bench, and right now it seems the only question that swirls over their head is just how far can they go?