PORTSMOUTH — Simply put, don’t tell the Lady Titans that Tuesday night’s non-league added tilt against Coal Grove meant little.
In fact, in a late addition by late addition game, it was arguably Notre Dame’s most complete performance of its entire regular season.
That’s because Notre Dame did a number on both ends of the floor against the visiting Lady Hornets, spearheaded by stymieing Coal Grove to a season-low 35 points — as Notre Dame dialed up a 60-35 victory in a contest that sure felt like a tournament bout.
Both teams entered the added affair with at least 18 wins, as the Division III Lady Hornets had 19 victories and an Ohio Valley Conference co-championship with Fairland to its credit — its only previous loss coming at Fairland in the season’s second game.
The Lady Titans, with another Southern Ohio Conference Division I championship in the bag and an 89-game league winning streak to boot — had only dropped a non-league encounter against fellow 18-1 Division IV foe Berne Union on Jan. 2.
In addition, it was a matchup of top-10 teams in the final Associated Press statewide girls poll —as the Hornets had an eighth-place ranking in Division III, while the Titans took fifth in the final Division IV ratings.
So something had to give on Tuesday, but the tug-of-war wasn’t much of one from the second quarter on.
In fact, the Lady Titans never trailed and scored the opening seven points — and withstood a 13-7 Lady Hornet rally which made for the game’s only tie at 13-13.
Ava Hassel, as usual, scored for Notre Dame with 18 seconds left in the initial quarter — and the Lady Titans totally dominated defensively and offensively from there.
They outscored the Lady Hornets by a doubled-up 45-22 margin over the final three stanzas, taking the sting out of Coal Grove as the Hornets had just single digits in those aforementioned frames.
Notre Dame delivered 20 second-period points, compared to a game-worst six for Coal Grove —as all the Hornets hit for was an Addi Dillow free throw and two buckets by Kaleigh Murphy, as the Titans took their largest lead by halftime at 35-19.
Hassel, fresh off becoming the Lady Titans’ career scoring leader last week, had 17 points alone in the first half —on 7-of-8 tw0-point shooting and 3-of-3 free throws.
In fact, Notre Dame —outside of Isabel Cassidy’s four three-point attempts in which she splashed one that made it 20-14 and Coal Grove got no closer —did not try another trifecta.
But when you have “Ava Max” making shots inside the arc and burning defenses down with her quick dribble-drive, along with the sister act of Claire and Annie Detwiller on the boards combined with a lockdown defense, then who needs to fire away from distance?
Notre Dame coach J.D. McKenzie discussed Tuesday’s win being arguably the Lady Titans’ top effort of the year.
“This is probably considering all things — our record and their record and our (AP) ranking and their ranking — and it’s the end of the season where everybody should be at their best, I would say it’s pretty close to a complete performance for us,” said McKenzie. “Probably one of the better ones we’ve had, if not the best.”
Defensively, it was an absolute clinic, as the Lady Titans held the Hornets’ standout and top player Dillow down to only nine points on 3-of-21 shooting — including 0-of-6 from three-point range.
She was only 1-of-12 at the half, and Dillow got little-to-no help in points pickup.
The Lady Titans forced the guests into several rushed shots, several resulting in one-and-outs.
Notre Dame dialed in and held Coal Grove to only 11-of-53 shooting for a cold 21-percent, including only 3-of-20 (15-percent) from three-point territory.
McKenzie made the switch to a zone defense late in the first period.
The results spoke for themselves.
“We didn’t want them to score in transition, but they were getting some open looks, so we went to a zone, which is an aggressive zone and we do some different things out of it and get some different looks. It what’s we keep in our back pocket, but we did really well with it,” said the coach. “We closed out on shooters and they rushed a bunch of shots. I think we made them slow down offensively, they got impatient and took shots they wouldn’t normally take. That was the difference. We wanted to make other people step up and score, and make Addi (Dillow) give the ball up or put the ball on the floor and close out on her. Defensively, we didn’t play a lot of man-to-man, but that’s one of the best efforts we’ve had all year.”
While the Lady Titans slowed Coal Grove down, they themselves sped up —but barreled downhill offensively.
Hassel hit for a game-high 25 on 10 total two-pointers and 5-of-5 freebies, as Claire Detwiller added eight field goals and a free throw for 17 — to supplement 13 rebounds and make it a double-double.
Annie Detwiller netted nine points with four baskets and five boards — as she, Hassel and Cassidy collected three assists apiece.
“Ava was great, she was playing downhill tonight. We went flat a lot of times, and just let her go to the hole. Then we went to a little pick-and-roll action in the fourth quarter, and got some great looks off that to Claire and Annie,” said McKenzie. “We were patient in the second half, we wanted to bleed that clock and get layups only, and stops and rebounds on the other end.”
Cassidy had three field goals for seven points, as Kamryn Bradford —who made off with four steals —bucketed a first-quarter field goal.
In all, Notre Dame shot a sizzling 66-percent from inside the arc on 24-of-36, part of 25-of-40 (62.5-percent) for the entire game.
The second half was a mere continuation of the first, in which the Titans took the third quarter 15-9 and the final canto 10-7.
Hassel’s two second-half free throws with 20 seconds showing made it 60-35 —the final score yes, but also the Lady Titans’ largest lead.
That final score should surprise some even though not all, as Notre Dame definitely did in fact play near-perfect.
“There were some things we need to clean up from tonight, such as box outs and dribble penetration, but like every other game, we want to go out there and give our best performance,” said McKenzie. “We’ve been playing at a pretty high level and the girls are bringing the energy every night.”
The Lady Titans tried to schedule another non-league encounter at another OVC opponent on Wednesday night at Chesapeake, but the game got snowed out.
As it stands, Notre Dame is 19-1 —with the opportunity to play two more regular-season games.
Coal Grove 13 6 9 7 — 35
Notre Dame 15 20 15 10— 60
COAL GROVE 35 (19-2)
Kelsey Fraley 0 0-0 0, Elli Holmes 1 0-0 2, Addi Dillow 3 3-6 9, Kaleigh Murphy 4 3-6 11, Abbey Hicks 2 0-0 6, Rylee Harmon 0 1-2 1, Jaidyn Griffith 1 3-3 6; TOTALS 11 10-17 35; Three-point field goals: 3 (Abbey Hicks 2, Jaidyn Griffith 1)
NOTRE DAME 60 (19-1)
Ava Hassel 10 5-5 25, Ella Kirby 0 0-0 0, Kamryn Bradford 1 0-0 2, Annie Detwiller 4 1-2 9, Claire Detwiller 8 1-4 17, Isabel Cassidy 3 0-0 7, Katie Strickland 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 26 7-11 60; Three-point field goals: 1 (Isabell Cassidy 1)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved