PORTSMOUTH – Notre Dame hasn’t played a better game defensively this season than they did on Monday night.
That’s not opinion, that’s cold hard facts. How can you argue with that when the Titans held Greenfield McClain, a now 10-3 Division II team in the Frontier Athletic Conference, to just two points in the first quarter, six points in the first half, and a total of 23 points by the time the final buzzer sounded?
Notre Dame head coach J.D. McKenzie agrees with that sentiment.
“Over Christmas break, we’ve been working on our help defense, keeping the ball out of the paint as much as we can, getting in the gaps. Drilling, drilling, and drilling every day. That’s the main thing we’ve been working on, and that paid off tonight. I thought that was our best defensive effort of the season so far. Still not perfect, but I was pretty pleased with our effort tonight.”
How can you not be? Forget the 14 points that talented guards Ava Hassel and Taylor Schmidt combined for in the 43-23 win over the Tigers. The two were pest like, especially in the first quarter, forcing turnover after turnover in the Titans full court defense.
“When they were fresh early on, they were really getting after it,” said McKenzie. “We were able to get more traps, unfortunately Ava got those two fouls early on which kind of changed some of the things we were doing defensively. We’re trying to do even more where we can trap in different areas of the court. Hopefully by tournament time we have a few different looks we can give teams.”
Offensively, Notre Dame was led by the player that McClain had no answer for: Katie Dettwiller.
Dettwiller finished Monday’s contest with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and six blocks on 8/10 shooting from the field, something McKenzie was glad to see from his senior ‘center’ piece.
“She’s been playing really solid all year. She’s finishing through a lot of contact. That kind of consistency every night that you can count on, she’s such a difference maker and I’m really proud of the way she stepped up and kind of put us on her back at times, doing what she does and what she has done for the last four years.”
Outside of the big three not named Ava Hassel, Taylor Schmidt, and Katie Dettwiller, Notre Dame got some very key minutes from their rotation players and incredibly deep bench, potentially the deepest in McKenzie’s tenure roaming the sidelines for the Titans.
Although that depth took a hit whenever junior guard Sophia Hassel suffered a season ending knee injury against Eastern (Meigs) a week ago, the Titans rotational players are still providing key minutes when needed most.
“Our bench was great and has been all year. Unfortunately we lost Sophia Hassel for the year with a knee injury at Eastern. But Lauren (Campbell), Claire (Dettwiller), Olivia (Smith) coming off the bench for us tonight, Isabel Cassidy, Joyce Zheng has been playing well for us even though I didn’t get her in there tonight. All those girls that come in and give us key minutes keeps us fresh, giving our girls a break when they need to.”
Following their closest game of the season, a 20 point win, mind you, the Titans will prepare for their second game of the season with the SOC I’s number two team and a team this Notre Dame squad is all too familiar with: The Clay Panthers, this Thursday on the Titans home court.
Notre Dame: 13-6-13-11 – 43
McClain: 2-4-11-6 – 23
Notre Dame: 19 FG, 4 3PT (Schmidt, Hassel, Schaefer, Smith 1), 1/2 FT. Scoring: Dettwiller 17, Schmidt 9, Hassel 5, Smith 5, Schaefer 3, Cassidy 2, Hash 2
McClain: 10 FG, 1 3PT, 0/0 FT.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT