ND tops Tigers in CL title game
After losing its first three games, Northwestern had a ton of ground to make up if it wanted to reach the Colonial League finals for the third consecutive year.
The winning tradition and postseason experience surely helped the Lady Tigers to seven straight wins en route to their championship match up against Notre Dame (Green Pond) last Friday at Freedom High School.
But Northwestern's late-season run finally came to an end.
The Crusaders took the lead midway through the first quarter and never trailed after that. A combination of dominate rebounding and balanced scoring propelled Notre Dame to a 51-36 win.
The two teams turned the ball over a combined 39 times and didn't shoot well, but the Crusaders seemed to capitalize on the Tigers' mistakes. Northwestern, which made 104 three-pointers this season, was held to just one in the title game as the Crusaders contested nearly every shot.
"I thought Notre Dame did a great job defending the ball-screen action with (Sabrina) Mertz and we didn't get a lot of open looks, which we have been getting the past couple of weeks," said Northwestern head coach Chris Deutsch. "As for us, we weren't mentally sharp in the first half and we missed some assignments. We knew what they would do, we just didn't execute as well as we should have."
Notre Dame head coach Josh Kopp also knew that the Tigers' ball-screen offense would have a large impact on the outcome of the contest.
"We executed our game plan to a tee," said Kopp. "We wanted to contain the dribble penetration and make sure to defend their ball-screen offense well. Our girls did it exactly how we planned it. The kids were hungry for the win and were going to do whatever it took to win. Our hustle was ultimately the difference."
Northwestern was just 5-for-15 from the floor in the first half. Notre Dame wasn't exactly efficient itself, shooting 10-for-25 from the field. The extra shot opportunities were thanks to the Crusaders' impressive effort on the glass, outrebounding Northwestern by a 33-16 margin. Savannah Lynch came up big for the Crusaders with nine points and nine boards.
"I can't say it's been one of our strengths," said the Notre Dame coach. "But in the championship game you need to rise to the occasion. I have to give Savannah (Lynch) a lot of credit. She rebounded the heck out of the ball. That was ultimately a big difference in the game. We have kids that just seem to get after the ball and they kept attacking."
"I have to give Notre Dame credit," said Deutsch. "They did a good job locking down our girls. We knew this would be a tough game. We were very out of sync in the first half and they got off to a great start which took some things away from us offensively."
On the other hand, Notre Dame didn't have much trouble finding offensive production. Seven different Crusaders scored in the contest, led by Sam Cabone with a dozen. Cabone and Lynch combined to shoot 11-for-15 from the foul line.
Sabrina Mertz and Mikaela Koenig combined for 23 of the Tigers' 36 points.
Deutsch said, "I knew our girls would give a great effort," said Deutsch. "The better team won tonight, they did the job and we didn't. I told the girls that our season isn't over. We're in a tough [Class] AAA bracket and we're going to find out what we're made of. A good team is defined by going through a tough time and how you respond to that. We had to win five in a row to make the league playoffs and then beat two very good teams to get here tonight. We have a week to recover now and I believe we will come out next Saturday and put the pedal to the medal and play extremely well."
Kopp has been at the helm of the successful Crusader program for 11 years now, and earned his first league title .
"It's a tremendous feeling," he said. "This group of girls is such a pleasure to coach. Now that we have it (the title), it feels as good as I thought it would to see the expressions on our girls' faces."
Mertz 3-4-5-11, Landrigan 1-0-2-2, Divers 1-0-0-2, Segan 0-0-2-0, Koenig 4-4-4-12, Williamson 0-2-4-2, Thomas 0-4-8-4, Sevrain 1-1-2-3. TOTALS: 10-15-27-36.
Gorman 1-0-0-3, Romich 1-3-6-5, Watson 0-0-0-0, Cabone 3-6-10-12, Farley 0-0-0-0, Altmire 4-1-3-9, S. Lynch 2-5-5-9, Kelly 2-0-0-5, Murphy3-2-3-8, Esposito 0-0-0-0, Velazquez 0-0-0-0, Galle 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-17-27-51.
N'Western 8 7 9 12 - 36
Notre Dame 14 13 12 12 - 51
Three-pointers: NW - Mertz 1, ND - Kelly 1, Gorman 1