PORTSMOUTH — Playing in just their second home game of the season, the Lady Titans picked up their seventh victory of the season. Notre Dame returned home to beat archrival Clay 53-39 Saturday afternoon.
Titans head coach JD McKenzie said it wasn’t his team’s finest performance but admitted the Panthers were probably at the root cause of his team’s struggles throughout the game.
“That was a Scott Cayton coached team. They played hard defensively and they were very active. You can tell he’s doing good things with them,” McKenzie said. “It wasn’t our best game obviously but they probably had something to do with that. They did a good job limiting us in the post but we were able to make enough plays where we could maintain our lead throughout.”
Cayton was thrilled his team battled the entire game.
“I’m happy because they competed,” Cayton said. “Notre Dame is an excellent team, JD (McKenzie) does an excellent job with them. They come out and guard you, and our girls stepped up and played with some confidence. We haven’t really put four quarters together this year. We had some breakdowns but overall, I thought this was our best four quarters of the year in one game.”
Notre Dame (7-0, 5-0) was led by sophomore Ali Smith who hit five 3-point field goals on her way to a career-high 18 points.
“That’s a career high for her. She’s been shooting the ball well all year, her and Hagen (Schaefer) both. I think they both are around 45 percent from three,” McKenzie said. “We’ve got good post players and we’ve got girls outside that can shoot the ball. It makes us difficult to guard. It makes us difficult to gameplan. We have different girls stepping up when other girls are being taken away.”
Schaefer, who scored 24 points Thursday in a victory over Symmes Valley, finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Lexi Smith also scored in double figures, finishing with 14 points while grabbing nine rebounds.
McKenzie believes this game is a prime example of how the season will play out for the Titans. Notre Dame has several players who can lead the team in scoring on any given night.
“It’s a very unselfish group of girls,” McKenzie said. “That’s probably one of the main things I’m proud of is how unselfish they are. They don’t get caught up on stats and that’s a big thing because any night, any of those girls are capable of double digits. It’s just whoever’s night it is, we go that way and feed the hot hand until the defense adjust to it, then somebody else steps up. We’ve been unselfish for a long time but this group is exceptional at that.”
Clay (2-4, 1-3) was led by freshman Jensen Warnock who scored 15 points.
“She’s doing a great job of attacking the basket and she’s just being aggressive,” Cayton said. “She’s athletic enough where she can get to the hole and she shoots it well enough where when they play off, she can make shots. So as a freshman, I’m really pleased with her development offensively.”
While his team is steadily improving, Cayton said they still have a lot of work to do.
“We need to get better at everything,” Cayton said. “We’re small so we’ve got to have five people box out every time. There were times tonight where we had four but the one person that doesn’t gives up the rebound. We’ve just got to be more consistent with our effort and we just need to work on everything.”
Clay 4 15 11 9 — 39
Notre Dame 10 21 11 11 — 53
Clay — Brown 2-0-6, Osborn 4-0-8, Balestra 1-0-2, Delotell 2-0-5, Warnock 6-1-15, Artis 1-0-3.
Notre Dame — A. Smith 6-1-18, Dettwiller 2-0-4, Schaefer 4-2-11, Kayser 3-0-6, L. Smith 6-2-14.
3-point field goals — Clay 6 (Osborn 2, Delotell, Warnock 2, Artis); Notre Dame 6 (A. Smith 5, Schaefer).
Records — Clay 2-4 (1-3); Notre Dame 7-0 (5-0)
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.