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Notre Dame Academy began last night's game against Waite clinging to a chance at a spot in the City League girls basketball playoffs, and the Eagles ended clinging to a 44-41 victory over the visiting Indians.
And, after letting a 13-point fourth-quarter lead all but evaporate, Notre Dame (12-3, 6-3) didn't breathe a sigh of relief until a half-court shot by Waite's Lakina Cleveland bounded off the backboard at the buzzer.
The win kept coach Rhett Boyd's Eagles alive for one of the three final playoff spots along with Waite (12-3, 8-2), Bowsher (12-4, 8-2) and St. Ursula Academy (11-5, 7-3). Central Catholic (15-1, 10-0) locked up first place with last night's win over Whitmer.
"Being around this game long enough, nothing surprises me," Boyd said of Waite's rally. "Great teams make runs and they made their run. But we did enough to win the game.
"If we lose, for all intents and purposes, we're done, barring any major upsets. So, this was a huge win for us and we have two more to get."
Notre Dame capitalized on a poor shooting night by the Tribe, which hit just 31 percent (16 of 51) from the field.
Tied 7-7 after Becca Smith's free throw with 3:12 left in the first quarter, the Eagles took the lead for good with 1:18 left in that period on Marissa Caputo's baseline drive.
Those points started a 12-2 run capped on a 14-foot jumper from freshman standout Patrice Lalor for a 19-9 edge 4:12 before halftime, which came with Notre Dame up 25-15.
"I feel we let it go in the first half," Waite coach Manny May said. "We didn't come out with intensity. In the second half we came out with better intensity, but we didn't execute the way we needed to.
"We didn't box out or make the layups or the putbacks that we needed to make. That cost us the game."
Waite increased its defensive pressure, but went just 4-of-18 from the field in the third quarter as Notre Dame upped its lead to 37-24.
The Indians finally found some success with their full and half-court pressure in the fourth quarter, and gradually trimmed the Eagles' lead to two points.
Led by sophomore guard Shareese Ulis - who scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the second half, including nine in the final period - the Tribe got within 41-35 on a Ulis 15-footer with 3:46 remaining, and within 41-38 on Cleveland's long 3-pointer from above the key at the 3:02 mark.
Notre Dame stretched it to five points on a Lalor putback with
2:46 to go, but Ulis answered with a clutch trey with 2:01 left to make it 43-41.
"Mark my words, [Ulis] is a star in the making," Boyd said. "She's gotten so much better from last year, and from the beginning of this year she's upped her game tenfold. She's a large reason why they're where they're at."
After Eagle Kristen Kerscher missed the front end of a bonus chance with 15.8 seconds to play, Waite had an upcourt pass stolen. Lalor then hit the first half of a bonus chance with 4.5 seconds left, and watched as Cleveland's final shot missed.
"They just picked up the tempo [in the fourth quarter] and started playing more of their game," said Lalor, who paced Notre Dame with 16 points and seven rebounds. "We had to try to stop them and bring them to our speed.
"At the end I was scared. I thought that shot [by Cleveland] was going in."
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Central Catholic coach Steve Pfahler earned his 300th victory in his 14th season as the Irish improved to 14-1 overall and 10-0 in the City League with a 71-51 win over Whitmer last night.
Ellen Herman led Central with 12 points, while Mallory Strall and Jessica Minnfield added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Megan Pawlowski paced visiting Whitmer with 14 points and Michelle Clayton added 10.
START 49, CLAY 33
Start jumped out to a 20-5 lead after the first quarter and held on to knock off Clay.
Candice Coleman scored 12 and Kyaira Marsenberg 11 for Start.
Kristin Krempa scored 16 for Clay.
BOWSHER 45, SCOTT 32
Stephany Johnson exploded for 26 points to lead Bowsher (12-4, 8-2).
Lamesha Johnson contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Jana Poellnitz scored nine points for Scott (7-8, 5-5).
ST. URSULA 58, ROGERS 30
Emily Yaskowitz and Emily Florian scored 14 points apiece to pace visiting St. Ursula, which put the game away with a 20-3 fourth quarter.
Lindsey McDonald led Rogers with nine.
LIBBEY 62, WOODWARD 34
Evette Mosby scored 17 points and Kadiya Gregory had 16 points and 18 rebounds for Libbey.
India Smith led Woodward with 13 and Charlotte Garcia added 11.