JACKSON — Whether it’s attractive or ugly, a win is a win … especially in a district title game.
Notre Dame didn’t play its best game of the season Thursday night by a longshot. The Titans committed an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers, didn’t shoot the ball well, and allowed Eastern Meigs’ Alyson Bailey to run wild.
But, in the end, none of that mattered.
The only thing that took precedence was a 48-38 win over the Eagles in a Division IV district final at Jackson High School — the program’s second consecutive district crown, as well as its second-ever.
“We spoiled everybody. I told the girls, ‘You’re going to hear a lot of flak. But it comes down to this: you just won a district championship by double digits and we played the worst game we probably have played this season, maybe in the last two,’” Notre Dame coach J.D. McKenzie said. “That’s where we’re at right now. A 10-point win is almost a disappointment.”
The 10-point win could’ve been a 15 to 20-point win had Katie Dettwiller played all 32 minutes. But instead, the 6-foot-4 center was forced to sit the bench in early foul trouble.
Her replacement, Claire Dettwiller, then suffered the same fate … forcing the Titans (24-1) to go deep into their bench.
“Give a lot of credit to Eastern. They brought a lot of physicality and they were really hard on Katie in the post,” McKenzie said. “They kind of uglied it up to keep it close. We didn’t shoot well, were a little loose with the basketball and had to sit Katie and Claire for a bunch of minutes in the first half with foul trouble.”
Still, Katie Dettwiller ended the night with 15 points, six rebounds and six blocks. But she worked for every single piece of that stat line.
“It was probably the hardest 15 points she’s ever had,” McKenzie said. “She just got beat on all night long. They pushed, prodded and double-teamed and I thought even with that happening, we missed her at times coming off the screen. But they did a good job of keeping us off-balanced.”
While Dettwiller made an impact offensively, Olivia Smith returned the favor defensively.
Eastern Meigs (15-10) relied heavily on guard Alyson Bailey to score the basketball, and for much of the first half, that’s exactly what she did. But when Smith entered, the complexity of the game changed.
That’s especially true when looking at the start of the second half. Through Smith’s defense, the Titans opened the third quarter on an 11-0 run, taking control with a 32-17 lead.
“She was the only one who could give an answer for Bailey,” McKenzie said of Smith. “The frustrating part is she goes left, we know she’s going left, and we can’t keep her from going left. Olivia did a good job of coming in and rattling her. She came in, got some steals, got some transition buckets and got the momentum going.”
Tale of the tape
With Bailey hot early, the Eagles took a 7-4 lead with 4:02 left to play in the first quarter. At the 1:07 mark, Katie Dettwiller tied the game, 9-9, before Ava Hassel beat the buzzer with a 3 to put Notre Dame ahead 12-11 heading into the second.
Believe it or not, the Titans never trailed again.
Hassel scored with 7:02 left in the second before Isabel Cassidy hit a 3 at the 3:53 mark, and followed that with a tough bucket in the lane, making it 21-14. The Eagles then tightened things up at 21-17 by hitting one of two free throws and getting a bucket just before halftime.
In the third, with Katie Dettwiller back in the lineup and with Smith on defense, that 11-0 run came into play. Dettwiller made it 23-17 before Taylor Schmidt, Smith, Hassell and Claire Dettwiller all scored. By the time Eastern Meigs blinked, they were facing a 15-point deficit.
Heading into the fourth, Notre Dame’s lead had been shaved to 10 at 37-27. But the Titans matched the Eagles’ offensive output in the final eight minutes, sealing a 48-38 victory.
After Dettwiller’s 15 points, six rebounds and six blocks, Hassel finished with 10 points and four assists. Cassidy had eight points, Claire Dettwiller had six points and six rebounds, and Smith ended the evening with five points, two assists and a game-high four steals.
Bailey led the Eagles with a game-high 19 points while Jess Parker added 10 points and five rebounds.
What’s on tap
Notre Dame advances to a Division IV regional semifinal, where they’ll take on Peebles — a 50-39 winner over Waterford Thursday evening. That contest is scheduled for 7 p.m., March 7 at Jackson High School.
But before the Titans focus on the Indians, they’re going to enjoy a second straight title … a feat McKenzie said he questioned would ever happen a first time.
“The year we got beat in double overtime [against Eastern Meigs in 2017], I thought, ‘Is it ever going to happen?’ So to get two in a row, that’s so … for them, it’s great,” McKenzie said. “We’ve worked so hard and put in so much time, effort and energy. We’re starting to get the job done.”
Eastern Meigs: 11-6-10-11 — 38
Notre Dame: 12-9-16-11 — 48
Eastern Meigs: 14-47 FG, 8-13 FT, 2-13 3pt. (Bailey 2), 25 rebounds (Casto 8), 15 turnovers, 6 assists (Bailey 2). Scoring: Bailey 19, Parker 10, Rockhold 6, Guthrie 2, Casto 1.
Notre Dame: 18-44 FG, 10-16 FT, 2-13 3pt. (Hassel 1, Cassidy 1), 28 rebounds (C. Dettwiller 6, K. Dettwiller 6, Schmidt 6), 17 turnovers, 10 assists (Hassel 4). Scoring: K. Dettwiller 15, Hassel 10, Cassidy 8, C. Dettwiller 6, Smith 5, Schmidt 2, Hash 2.