It is a different year and pretty much a different cast of characters, but the Notre Dame basketball team is now just one win away from matching its predecessor.
The unranked Eagles were solid at both ends of the floor in a 41-30 victory against eighth-ranked Perrysburg in a Division I girls regional semifinal Tuesday night before a crowd of 1,800 at Central Catholic’s Sullivan Center.
The win sends Notre Dame (24-3) to its second straight regional final at Norwalk, where it will face sixth-ranked Wadsworth (25-2) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Grizzlies advanced by beating Rocky River Magnificat 46-27 in the other regional semifinal Tuesday night.
PHOTO GALLERY: Notre Dame upsets No. 8 Perrysburg
The Eagles, repeat champions of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, reached the state semifinals last March.
“We were extremely patient at both ends,” Eagles coach Travis Galloway said. “We did a good job of taking away what they wanted to do offensively for the most part, and we did a good job of getting the ball in places to score.
“Our players did a good job of staying together and keeping their composure. Even when Perrysburg started off hot, and when they made another run in the second half.”
In beating Perrysburg (23-2), champion of the Northern Lakes League, Notre Dame was led by junior Jayda Worthy, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and by sophomore Tierra Floyd, who mixed three 3-pointers into her game-high 14 points.
“Coming in we knew it was going to be a good game, and we had to work both ends of the floor for 32 minutes,” said Worthy, the Eagles’ lone returning starter. “We just had to keep our composure and do what we had to do.
“We all had our doubts in the beginning of the season. But every day we keep getting better. We’re focused on one goal, and that’s getting further than last year’s team did. Being here right now is a great feeling.”
The Eagles also defeated the Yellow Jackets in last year’s regional semifinal at Central, and they’ve handed Perrysburg all three of its losses during the past 26 games.
Perrysburg started off hot, breaking out to a 9-4 lead on junior Sarah Baer’s spin move for a layup with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in the opening quarter.
But Notre Dame shook off its own slow start by outscoring the Jackets 14-2 during the final 11:40 of the first half to take an 18-11 lead to the break.
The Eagles increased their edge to 22-13 on a Worthy bucket with 6:46 left in the third quarter before Lindy DeLong answered with a 3-pointer for the Jackets
Down 27-17 after Floyd hit a 3 and a transition layup, Perrysburg got a 3 from DeLong (six points) and baskets from Baer and Abby Sattler, the latter on a buzzer-beater, to go to the final quarter within 27-24.
But that was the end of the Yellow Jackets’ momentum, as they hit just two of their final nine shots from the field.
When Floyd missed the second of two free throws with 6:19 to play, Worthy slipped in for a key rebound and putback basket. Then, with 5:13 to play, Floyd nailed her third 3-pointer and Notre Dame was back in control up 33-24.
“Our coach tells us that good teams make runs, but better teams make runs back at them,” Floyd said. “We made a run back at them and got this win.
“It feels great to know that we made it back there, and we’ll make it that one step further to get to state.”
The Eagles were 14 of 27 (52 percent) from the field, compared to Perrysburg’s 12 of 44 (27 percent).
“We didn’t make enough shots,” Perrysburg coach Todd Sims said. “It wasn’t for not getting shots. They did a good job defensively, but we got some good looks offensively.
“When you get this far against really good teams, you have to make plays. Someone has to have that special game.”
Baer topped the Jackets with seven points and eight rebounds, and Allex Brown had nine boards.
“When you’re down to eight teams left playing on one Saturday to make another trip to the Schott [Schottenstein Center], it’s something special,” Galloway said. “Last year’s group, making school history getting to the final four, was a great journey. This year’s group, with how much they’ve improved from day one until now, has been a great journey.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.