PORTSMOUTH — Thursday’s Division IV district semifinal between Notre Dame and Green was seemingly a game of two significant runs.
The last run — and the game — belonged to the Lady Titans, which will be making their sixth consecutive district title game appearance on Saturday.
After Green (8-4) had cut Notre Dame’s lead to 23-19 after trailing 23-13 at halftime, the Lady Titans pounced — as they so often do — into attack mode.
Following the Lady Bobcats’ 6-0 spurt to start the second half, coach J.D. McKenzie’s Lady Titans (22-1) answered with a 17-0 run that spanned a full quarter of play en route to their 44-22 win on their home floor.
Both teams’ defense was on full display, with neither club scoring more than 13 points in any period.
Green and ND also shot below 30-percent on their field-goal attempts — Green shooting 28-percent and Notre Dame shooting 25-percent.
The differencemaker was indeed Notre Dame’s “sweltering” defense as Green coach Melissa Knapp calls it, and its ability to force opponents into turning the ball over.
“Sweltering defense is what I call it,” Knapp said, after the game. “They forced turnovers and I think that led to mental fatigue, and that’s when Notre Dame capitalized in the game.”
“Defensively we played a pretty good game. Held them to 22 points tonight and the first time we played them held them to 27,” McKenzie said. “We were just as good the first time on that end, offensively we were not. We didn’t shoot well, and she (Knapp) had a good strategy. Basically played four girls man-to-man and had Sweeney in the paint to help. We settled for three-pointers in the first half and they wouldn’t fall. Had some layups in transition we didn’t finish, but I thought Green did a heck of a job defensively.”
For the game, the Lady Titans forced Green into 23 turnovers, while committing just seven themselves.
That key figure helped lead to more possessions on the offensive end, even though their shots weren’t falling at a high clip.
ND also gained more possessions thanks to its rebounding, led by senior Claire Dettwiller.
Dettwiller grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and scored nine points — with seven of those rebounds coming on the offensive glass.
“She’s been awesome this year, by far the best year I’ve seen her play,” McKenzie said, of Dettwiller. “Rock-solid all year long — offensively, defensively, rebounding. She’s been our anchor and I can’t speak highly enough about her.”
Green cut ND’s lead to just four points at 23-19 with six minutes to play in the third period — when senior Kimberly Brown connected on her two three-point field goals as part of her team-high 11 point outing.
That stretch to begin the second half, as well as their defensive performance for the whole game, helped keep the Lady Titans’ margin of victory to a minimum.
ND won the two’s meeting earlier this season 69-27 in Portsmouth, meaning the Lady Bobcats nearly cut ND’s margin of victory in half from their first time playing until their last.
“When we play Notre Dame, sometimes we’re intimidated,” Knapp said. “We weren’t intimidated tonight, and I think that helped us from getting blown out. Definitely a huge positive — none of them ever quit.”
ND sophomore Kamryn Bradford led all players with three made threes, two coming in the first half, as the Lady Titans established their early double-digit lead.
Both coaches also noted the matchup between two of the area’s best point guards: Notre Dame’s Ava Hassel and Green’s Kasey Kimbler.
Hassel and Kimbler made just one field goal apiece as they guarded one another — a credit to both of their defensive abilities.
“What a player Ava Hassel is, and I just think that goes to show you what kind of a player Kasey Kimbler is,” Knapp said. “There were times when Ava would get frustrated and they would screen Kasey like crazy, that’s what I would do too. I think Kasey gave it a 110-percent, wasn’t intimidated, and I think sometime’s Kasey is underrated.”
“It was a great matchup. Ava had some shots not fall in the first half, but I thought she did a great job in the second half of getting everybody else involved,” McKenzie said. “It was fun to watch — Kasey’s great, two of the best point guards around going at it. It was what you’d expect out of that — physical, really fun to watch as a coach.”
Green will graduate four seniors in Brown, Kame Sweeney, Charlie Blevins and Brelan Baldridge.
Knapp credited their group with helping the Green program grow from a one-win or two-win team before they arrived to now back-to-back sectional champions.
“Those seniors helped turn the corner. Four years ago before this group came up, we had multiple seasons of one, two win seasons,” Knapp said. “We got in the pee wee program with these kids, and now that’s paying off. They’re trailblazers and had a huge part in turning the program around.”
Although it’s not their final game, it is the final time that Notre Dame’s senior class will play on its home court.
Losing just one game at home during their high school careers, and posting a 96-7 record over their four years, Notre Dame’s senior class has undoubtedly left its mark on the program, McKenzie added.
“I can’t say enough about how fun it’s been to watch these seniors over their four years and how they’ve grown. They couldn’t be better role models for the younger girls on the team and they set a very high standard, as a lot of senior classes have.”
No. 1-seed ND will now earn the opportunity to win its fourth straight Division IV district title, as they’re set to face No. 4-seed Waterford on Saturday (Feb. 27) at Vinton County High School.
The two Southeast District powers have met twice during ND’s current streak of at least qualifying for the district title game — a 65-26 Waterford win in 2016 in the district final and in 2018 when the Lady Wildcats won 49-30 in a regional semifinal.
A win would place this Lady Titans’ senior class in rarefied air in the Southeast District — with four district championships under their belt.
With tipoff set for 1 p.m. from Vinton County High School, McKenzie says his team is looking forward to the upcoming battle.
“It’s going to be a very physical, high-paced game. Waterford seems to be playing pretty well offensively, we’re going to have to limit turnovers and second-chance opportunities for them. If we can make it difficult for them to score, I think we have a chance to win. It’s going to be fun, going to be a battle. Not uncommon territory for us to be playing Waterford in the tournament — we’re looking forward to the challenge and hopefully we can get one on Saturday.”
* * *
Green 3 10 6 3 — 22
Notre Dame 13 10 13 8 — 44
GREEN 22 (8-4)
Kasey Kimbler 1 1-4 4, Kimberly Brown 3 3-4 11, Kame Sweeney 0 1-4 1, Charlie Blevins 0 0-0 0, Anna Knapp 3 0-0 6, Brelan Baldridge 0 0-0 0, Kaylee Christian 0 0-0 0, Emily Brady 0 0-0 0, Katelinn Satterfield 0 0-0 0, Lori Brown 0 0-0 0, Alex Smith 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 7 5-12 22; Three-point field goals: 3 (Kimberly Brown 2, Kasey Kimbler 1)
NOTRE DAME 44 (22-1)
Ava Hassel 1 10-12 12, Ella Kirby 0 0-0 0, Mollie Creech 0 0-0 0, Kamryn Bradford 3 0-0 9, Annie Dettwiller 1 5-6 8, Claire Dettwiller 4 1-2 9, Isabel Cassidy 2 2-3 6, Ashley Holtgrewe 0 0-0 0, Gracie Ashley 0 0-0 0, Katie Strickland 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 11 18-23 44; Three-point field goals: 4 (Kamryn Bradford 3, Annie Dettwiller 1)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved