Notre Dame's Christiana Jefferson heads down court after a steal during play against Whitmer on Thursday night. The Eagles beat the Panthers 43-33, in part because a series of missed opportunities by Whitmer.
Coaches hate to see missed layups and, Thursday night at Notre Dame, Whitmer coach Sean Flemmings didn’t want to know exactly how many his Panthers had accumulated in their Three Rivers Athletic Conference girls basketball matchup.
Whitmer's Samantha Meinen pulls down in a rebound in front of Notre Dame's Tierra Floyd. The Eagles stayed perfect in the TRAC with the win.
The number was seven.
Considering Whitmer lost, 43-33, that was a significant stat on this night.
“Of course we’ve got to give a lot of credit to their defense for some of those missed opportunities,” Flemmings said of the missed layups.
“But we’ve got to get back in the gym and get better so we’re making those the next time.”
The host Eagles (11-3, 8-0) got 16 points and nine rebounds from 6-foot sophomore forward Kaayla McIntyre, plus 10 points from sophomore guard Tierra Floyd, and went to a perfect 22-0 in TRAC games since the conference opened play last season.
“We kind of got off to a shaky start,” Eagles coach Travis Galloway said. “Early on we had chances to extend our lead, and we didn’t execute at either end.
“We had some mental breakdowns defensively, and offensively we weren’t patient enough. They took some things away from us that we wanted to do.”
Notre Dame grabbed a 10-5 lead after one quarter, and stretched it to 18-11 by halftime, but could never seem to shake the upset-minded Panthers (10-5, 4-4), even after a pivotal third-quarter surge.
Sparked by 5-4 sophomore point guard Christiana Jefferson (eight points) — who contributed a 3-pointer, another field goal, and two assists on McIntyre layups during that stretch — the Eagles used a 10-0 run to take a 28-13 lead with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
“We were more aggressive off the dribble then,” Galloway said of the run. “We didn’t let them set up their defense, and we got some easier things in the open floor.
“That helped feed our defensive pressure. For the most part though, they did a nice job of just sitting down and defending us.”
Whitmer refused to go down quietly.
Paced by 5-9 junior guard-forward Keshyra McCarver, who totaled team-highs of 17 points and eight rebounds, the Panthers began chipping away at the 15-point deficit.
Down 30-18 entering the fourth quarter, the Panthers responded with their own 11-3 surge to get within 35-29 two Jordyn Blood free throws with 2:43 remaining.
“They just kept chipping away at it, and they had some good possessions,” Galloway said.
“McCarver started getting some good shots inside, and I think we lost her in transition a couple times. We took some rushed shots rather than executing.”
But that was the end of the line for Whitmer’s rally as, following an Eagle timeout, Notre Dame went into closeout mode and iced things by hitting eight of its 11 attempts from the foul line in the final 1:46.
“First and foremost, you have to convert,” Flemmings said. “But they can take the air out of the ball and can run off 45 seconds [on offense] sometimes. That makes it difficult when you’re trying to make a run.
“We had too many  turnovers, and we’ve got to finish at the rim.”
The Eagles were 15 of 37 (41 percent) from the field, 11 of 16 at the line, and outrebounded the Panthers 30-26. Jayda Worthy added seven points for Notre Dame.
“We didn’t come out playing our best and I had an off game,” McIntyre said, downplaying her stats.
“We have more talent but they outworked us. We need to come out and play our hardest for 32 minutes every game.
“Last year’s team went all the way to states, and that’s our goal again this year. We need to work hard and perform.”
Beyond the seven missed layups, Whitmer was hindered by its poor shooting overall. The Panthers were 10 for 38 (26 percent) from the field, but did hit on 12 of 16 free throws.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6461 or onTwitter@JungaBlade.