NORWALK, Ohio — The Notre Dame Eagles made history Saturday, becoming the first Toledo high school basketball team — boys or girls — to reach the state semifinals in three consecutive years.
The seventh-ranked Eagles (24-3) used their superior size, defensive pressure, and patient offensive execution to top fourth-ranked Wadsworth 51-42 in a Division I girls regional championship game.
It was Notre Dame's third straight win in a regional final against the Grizzlies (26-2).
Crucial in this regional three-peat were the Eagles' big three — 6-foot-2 juniors Kaayla McIntyre (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Tierra Floyd (14 points, 5 rebounds), and 6-0 senior Jayda Worthy (13 points, 9 rebounds) — who did most of the damage for Notre Dame, which never trailed after taking a 12-10 lead late in the first quarter.
“It’s an unbelievable accomplishment,” Notre Dame coach Travis Galloway said. “Over the three-year span we’ve had very good players, and these kids stepped up at the ideal time.
“Jayda Worthy did it for us the last two years in this game, and I thought Kaayla McIntyre did it today for us. To do this three straight years — with each team being a little different — is a great accomplishment, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”
The Eagles will play in a D-I state semifinal Friday at 6 p.m. at Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
They will face top-ranked Cincinnati Princeton (25-2).
Notre Dame broke out to a quick 4-0 lead on a pair of inside buckets from McIntyre, then saw Wadsworth answer with an 8-0 run.
Tied at 12 entering the second quarter, and having already established their inside game, the Eagles moved their offense to the perimeter.
Two 3-pointers 46 seconds apart from freshman Mariah Copeland (six points, three rebounds), plus a third 3-pointer from Floyd 1:23 before halftime led to a 27-24 halftime lead for Notre Dame.
“We had to come out focused and play hard,” McIntyre said of her team’s methodical, businesslike approach. “They’re a great team and very scrappy. We were focused and came out and executed and played hard on defense the whole game.
“We had to be very patient offensively and get it into the post. That’s our strong suit. And then we knew our outside shots with Mariah [Copeland] and Tierra would come.”
Wadsworth was still within 34-32 late in the third quarter after a 3-pointer from Olivia Thompson (eight points), but went to the fourth down 36-32 after two McIntyre free throws closed that period.
“I think the difference was we came out extra hard,” Floyd said. “We had to match their intensity, and I think we did at the start. Then, in the second half, we came out very hard.
“We had to lock down on defense in the fourth quarter. They hit some 3s, so we had get some defensive stops. That contributed to getting good offensive looks.”
Back-to-back inside basket from McIntyre and Worthy started the fourth quarter, giving Notre Dame its biggest lead to that point at 40-32 with 6:19 remaining.
“Coach Galloway always tells us to play to our strength, and our strength is that we are bigger than most teams,” Worthy said. “It really helped dominating in the post and getting the rebounds. That’s a big reason why we won.”
The Grizzlies got no closer than five points from there, as the Eagles secured their regional three-peat by hitting seven of the 11 foul shots in the final 4:38.
Notre Dame was 17 of 39 (44 percent) from the field, 14 of 23 at the line, outrebounded the Grizzlies 30-26, and forced nine turnovers while committing eight.
Wadsworth was held to 33-percent shooting (15 of 45) from the field, including a 3-for-17 effort (18 percent) on 3-pointers, and was eight of 16 from the line. Jodi Johnson matched Thompson as the Grizzlies’ high scorer with eight points.
Notre Dame’s third trip to state comes in conjunction with the first state-semifinal berth for City League champion Rogers (24-4), which will play in the Division II semifinal at 1 p.m. on Thursday against second-ranked Kettering Alter (28-0).
“ ‘Making history,’ has been one of our mottos this year,” Worthy said.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to represent Toledo in Columbus, and this year we’ve got Rogers down there with us also representing Toledo. So, it’s going to be a great time next weekend.”
This is the first time two Toledo girls teams have reached a state semifinal in the same season.