As the game progressed, the Eagles' offensive flow hardened to a near halt.
And, when the mixture finally settled before a crowd estimated at 2,000 at the Sullivan Center, Central had its 50th straight league win in a 68-41 romp.
Senior Brigid Wernert led the 11th-ranked Irish (13-1, 6-0 CL) with 14 points. Sophomores Kelly Helvey and Nicole Brown added 10 apiece.
“I think we had them a little confused,” Central coach Steve Pfahler said. “They were looking for more traps and we didn't give it to them. Our kids played straight-up defense very well. Our tenacity, being there on the ball all the time, just wore them down.”
The Irish have not lost in a regular-season or league playoff contest since the 1996 city championship game, and have now won 60 of their last 61 CL games.
Central got things rolling early, hitting eight of its first 11 shots from the field in the opening quarter, which ended with the Irish comfortably on top 21-10.
“We're a hard team to catch up against when we're playing that solid of defense,” Pfahler said, “and a lot of teams don't think we're that good of a shooting team. But if they let us set up, our kids can knock down those shots.”
“I don't know if we caught them by surprise,” Wernert said, “but we just came out strong and it worked for us. It always helps to make your (early) shots, because that gives you confidence to keep on going.”
Notre Dame was within 36-23 at halftime, but as Central's deep roster wore the Eagles down, things got worse.
Using a full-court, man-to-man defense with little of its trademark half-court trap, Central put the clamps on Notre Dame.
The Eagles (10-3, 5-1) didn't score a point in the third quarter until Shayla Bell (10 points) converted one of two free throws with 4:15 left. Notre Dame managed just one field goal in the third.
“They're tough,” Eagles coach Bob Brown said of Central. “On defense, they played extremely well. I give them all the credit. They hustled and they stopped us. They gave us more problems than I thought they would, especially in the half-court defense.
“They knocked down some shots early from the perimeter and we just struggled from the get-go. Our kids played almost like they were scared. They backed off a little bit. We've got to go back to the drawing board.”
The Irish, substituting freely by the start of the fourth quarter, limited the Eagles to 4-of-29 shooting after halftime and an 11-of-48 effort for the game. Central was 27-of-57 from the field, 10-of-14 from the line and put 12 players in the scoring column.
Notre Dame committed 27 turnovers to Central's 18, and outrebounded the Irish 40-34 with Rachel Hafner (nine points) pulling down 14.
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