GENOA — The odds of perennial state girls basketball power Notre Dame losing to Three Rivers Athletic Conference foe Clay in Thursday’s Division I district semifinal were long, but that didn’t stop the favored Eagles from taking nothing for granted.
Tenth-ranked Notre Dame (20-4) jumped all over Clay from the outset, blanking the enemy Eagles in the first and third quarters, en route to an easy 58-15 victory at Genoa High School.
Notre Dame Academy's Ariel Cummings goes to the basket against Oregon Clay's Samantha Stanley during a Division I district semifinal at Genoa High School Thursday, March 1, 2018.
Notre Dame thus earned a spot in a district final for the eighth consecutive year, but must await its Saturday opponent. The scheduled 8 p.m. semifinal between Southview and Anthony Wayne was not played because of travel concerns thanks to inclement weather.
That game was rescheduled for 5 p.m. Friday. The final is here at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Notre Dame, which won its seventh straight TRAC title this season with a perfect 14-0 record, was led by junior guard Jala Johnson’s 15 points. Junior forward Ashley Barron added 12 points for the Eagles, and senior post player Ariel Cummings had nine points and eight rebounds.
PHOTO GALLERY: Notre Dame 58, Clay 15
VIDEO: Notre Dame-Clay
“Whitmer lost [in an upset Wednesday to Fremont Ross], so coach told us to come out with a mindset of winning,” Johnson said of taking no chances. “In the first half, we were a little rusty on offense and defense. But as the game went on, we got more together.
“No matter the score, we just had to play like we always do. We always have to keep the same mindset.”
The game was shortened by the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s new 35-point, running clock rule, after Johnson’s steal and layup gave Notre Dame a 46-10 lead with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We did a great job on the offensive end of playing together,” Notre Dame coach Travis Galloway said. “Our ball movement was great, we had great possessions, and we finished off possessions well.
“Also, our energy level on defense was great. We sped them up, and that was we planned to do. We executed that, and we rebounded well. We were able to get the ball clean and get out and run and get some easier buckets.”
Backup guard Tiffany Stevens led Clay with 10 points. Stevens had four of her team’s five total field goals in the game, as Clay (9-15) struggled against Notre Dame’s constricting defensive pressure in shooting just 16 percent (5 of 31).
“They are TRAC champs and ranked in the top 10 in the state for a reason, and you saw that tonight,” Clay coach Corey Slovak said. “They were bigger, stronger, faster and motivated, and that was evident on the scoreboard.”
Notre Dame, which was 23-of-48 (48 percent) from the field, scored the game’s first points 1:32 in on Kailah Johnson’s steal and layup. ND did heat up and took a 16-0 lead to the second.
The Eagles extended that advantage to 33-10 by halftime, and led 49-10 after three.
Notre Dame outrebounded Clay 38-21, and forced 22 turnovers while committing 12.
“It’s never old hat,” Galloway said of Notre Dame’s eight consecutive district final berth. “Each team is unique, and each one has its trials and tribulations. When you get a chance to play for a district championship, it’s a special thing.
“A lot of schools don’t get those opportunities, and for the last eight years we’ve been able to do that. We’ll never take it for granted. It’ll be a great game on Saturday, no matter who we play. It’ll be a fun time.”
The Eagles have reached the state final four in five of the past six seasons, including Division I state runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.