PORTSMOUTH – In a hearty, well-fought, tournament-style game, the Notre Dame Titans (1-0) edged out the South Webster Jeeps (0-1) 46-44 in a non-league season-opening game on the Titans home court.
While both teams certainly weren’t playing their peak basketball, neither team was expected to.
However, it’s the experience of tournament-style games such as the one the Titans and Jeeps played Saturday that will ultimately pay dividends when both squads are hoping to make their respective runs in the Division IV tournament.
“As a coach, I’m going to look at the negatives,” Notre Dame coach J.D. McKenzie said following the win. “We’re not scoring like I’d like us to, we’re out of shape from where I’d like us to be. But we’ve had some injuries and a late volleyball run. But those are excuses, and we’re just not where I’d like us to be for a full 32-minute game. But, I was really happy with how we responded in the second half. We made some runs, we were able to get three or four stops in a row and get out in transition, and I thought we made it harder for them towards the end of the game.”
“Very proud of the heart and effort they showed all game long,” South Webster coach Ryan Dutiel said following the loss. “They refused to go away. That’s something that any coach wants, especially at this point in the season. Hopefully that kind of competitive spirit continues.”
In the early goings, South Webster used their defense and ability to get good shots to their advantage.
After one, the Jeeps held a 15-12 lead over the host Titans. Sophomore Bri Claxon scored seven of her team-high 19 points during the first frame while senior Rose Stephens scored six of her 10 in the first eight minutes.
“Bri’s a special player, she can do it all,” Dutiel said. “Early in the game she was really in control and was able to hit shots. I thought she got a little tired in the second half with some of her passes and shots. But she’s a special player, and we’re glad she’s only a sophomore.”
At the half, South Webster held a narrow 21-19 lead over Notre Dame. Junior guard Ava Hassel scored 11 of her game-high 24 points during the first half, keeping her team in the game when baskets were hard to come by.
In third quarter, Hassel took a back seat to junior teammate Isabel Cassidy. After scoring four in the first, the sharp-shooting guard nailed back-to-back threes to give the Titans a 31-29 lead late in the period. Cassidy finished Saturday’s win with 10 points.
“I think we were down five and Isabel (Cassidy) hits back-to-back threes to put us up one,” McKenzie said. “I thought those two (Hassel and Cassidy) were huge for us, and I expect a lot out of both of them. I thought we rebounded better in the second half, Lauren (Campbell) and Claire (Dettwiller) did a nice job of limiting their second chance looks from what they got in the first half.”
In the fourth, Hassel took back control of the game, scoring 11 points of her team’s 15 over the course of the final eight minutes, allowing the Titans to narrowly-escape with a two-point win over a talented Jeeps team.
“We emphasized to always look for (Taylor) Schmidt and (Ava) Hassel,” Dutiel said. “And (Isabel) Cassidy is a good shooter too, so we wanted to know where they were on the floor at all times. We were able to get to them early and get a hand in their face and we felt that if we were able to do that early, it might force them to take contested shots later in the game.”
After leading all scorers with a game-high 11 points at the half, Claxon managed just eight in the second half, a credit to the halftime adjustments made by McKenzie and the elevated play of senior lockdown defender Olivia Smith.
“She (Smith) did much better in the second half,” McKenzie said. “At half I challenged Olivia (Smith) to come out and do a better job, and she responded well. I thought as a whole we did a lot better on her in the second half.”
Aiding South Webster in the loss was sophomore Faith Maloney who finished with eight points in the season-opener, Baylee Cox who finished with five, and Kenzie Hornikel who finished with two.
For Notre Dame, Taylor Schmidt chipped in six points, Lauren Campbell added four, and Claire Dettwiller finished with two.
From here, South Webster begins their SOC II slate on Monday, November 25th when they will host Valley, 71-53 winners over Paint Valley, Saturday.
“The thing I take away is that we were in the game start to finish, and that we can compete with the other top teams in the area,” Dutiel said. “We feel like if we play like we did tonight moving forward that we can hopefully shake some things up.”
For McKenzie’s group, they’ll take some time off from game action before opening their SOC I schedule Monday, December 2nd with a road trip to Western.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve been in one of these (a close game), we had a couple last year” McKenzie said. “As a coach, the test is great because you saw the resolve, and because you learn what you need to get better at. It’s a big plus; it allows us to see what we need to improve at to be playing our best basketball come February and March.”
South Webster – 15 6 10 13 – 44
Notre Dame – 12 7 12 15 – 46
South Webster: Claxon 19, Stephens 10, Maloney 8, Cox 5, Hornikel 2
Notre Dame: Hassel 24, Cassidy 10, Schmidt 6, Campbell 4, Dettwiller 2
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved