Notre Dame's Talajha Parker raises the girls Division I district basketball championship trophy after the Eagles beat Northviewgame at Perrysburg High School, Saturday.
Northview came out strong at the beginning of Saturday night's Division I girls district basketball championship game against Notre Dame at Perrysburg.
The Wildcats hit six of their eight first-quarter shots and emerged with a 16-9 lead over the Eagles.
But the rest was pretty much all Notre Dame (20-4), as the Eagles' pressure defense ultimately proved to be the difference in a 54-43 victory at Perrysburg.
PHOTO GALLERY: District final: Notre Dame vs. Northview
The Three Rivers Conference champions (14-0 in conference) will face Perrysburg Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a regional semifinal at Central Catholic's Sullivan Center. The Notre Dame-Perrysburg winner then advances to Saturday's noon regional final at Norwalk against either Wadsworth or Rocky River Magnificat.
"This the first district championship for the school in 23 years, so we're just excited to have a part of that," Eagles coach Travis Galloway said. "We hope we can keep playing."
The Eagles are looking to extend the streak of Toledo teams reaching state to five straight years.
"We'd love to make it to Columbus, but that's not here yet," Galloway said. "We play a good Perrysburg team on Tuesday, and we'll see what happens after that."
In beating the Northern Lakes League champions, who were also 14-0 in league play and closed at 21-2 overall, the Eagles were led by University of Toledo-bound senior point guard Cat Wells with 17 points.
"It feels good to be moving on to regionals, and we've got to get better to move to the final four for states," Wells said. "Maybe we can come up with something. You never know."
Eagles senior center Michelle Holmes added 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Demy Whitaker and Jayda Worthy contributed seven points each to lift ND.
"Last year we lost to Start three times, and our last loss was in the district final," Holmes said. "So, we knew this was our turn. If we wanted to get to states we knew the district would be the hardest spot."
Such balance was not as evident on the Northview side of the ledger, thanks in part to the Wildcats having to play without injured senior guard Skylar Rose, an absence that forced Sigler to start three freshmen and shortened his usual bench depth, a fact that became more relevant as the game progressed.
"They came out more focused than we were," Holmes said of the first quarter. "We still had the jitters because we hadn't won a district championship.
"But, as soon as we got the jitters out, our coach told us 'the game's not over,' and we came our hard. We turned it around at the beginning of the second quarter."
In defeat, Northview senior guard Miriam Justinger was valiant from start to finish, leading all scorers with 23 points. Fellow senior Jessica Jessing added 10 points and 11 rebounds in the loss, which snapped the Wildcats' 20-game winning streak.
"We had an injury problem and started three freshmen," Northview coach Jerry Sigler said. "There's all kinds of excuses, but there really are none. They were just better than us tonight.
"Notre Dame is very athletic, they're very well coached, they're very unselfish. They do everything well."
Notre Dame was 22-of-49 from the field, 7-of-11 from the line, was outrebounded 24-20 by the taller Cats, but forced 22 turnovers while limiting their own giveaways to 13 in the game.
Much of the damage caused by those Northview turnovers came in the decisive third quarter, when the Eagles forced eight of them and outscored the Wildcats 21-9 after having trailed 21-20 at halftime.
"It was just our intensity," Wells said of the Eagles' second and third-quarter surges. "We had to calm down and get all the jitters out, and come out with a lot of intensity. In the third quarter, it was our patience."
"Once we got it down to one at the half, I think the kids understood we didn't play our best half, and all year long the third quarter's been our best quarter," Galloway said. "We got the game going in our favor, getting some turnovers and some easy buckets. Then we did a good job of executing and taking good shots and being patient in the fourth quarter."
With its superior guard play down the stretch, Notre Dame was able to milk some clock and never let their 40-31 lead after three quarter shrink below eight points.
The Wildcats were 15-of-29 from the field and 12-of-14 from the line. The trouble was the turnovers enabled Notre Dame to get off 20 more shots.
"They came out with the run-and-jump [pressure defense] in the second quarter," Sigler said. "We were prepared for it, but we did not execute it. Give credit to Notre Dame. They did what they had to do to beat us."
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.