Notre Dame Academy’s Kailah Johnson (11), Jala Johnson (31), and Mariah Copeland (3) react after Notre Dame Academy's loss. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
COLUMBUS — For the second time in three seasons, Notre Dame’s bid for a state basketball championship came up one win short Saturday night at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
The Eagles took an 11-4 lead after one quarter before Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame rallied back for a two-point halftime lead, then continued on for a 54-44 victory in the Division I girls title game.
“It’s horrible,” Notre Dame coach Travis Galloway said of the loss. “It’s hard. We work hard as a program, as a coaching staff, and as a bunch of players to get down here. It’s right there in your grasp, and you just can’t get it done.
“It’s a frustrating feeling, and a hard thing to overcome. I know there’s a lot of other people who would love to be in this situation, but I’d love to get one done.”
Notre Dame, trailing 42-31 with 6:22 remaining after two Gabbie Marshall free throws for MND, made a spirited comeback bid by employing a full-court pressure defense.
The Eagles (26-4) pulled within 42- 38 with 4:34 to play on back-to-back transition layups from senior point guard Bre Hampton-Bey, but could get no closer down the stretch despite Hampton-Bey scoring 10 of her game-high 22 points in the final quarter.
Julia Hoefling (18 points) scored three inside buckets in the closing four minutes, and Marshall (12 points) went 8-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter, enabling the Cougars (26-4) to hang on for their sixth state championship.
Mount Notre Dame won previous titles in 2004 and from 2006 through 2009, with a state runner-up finish in 2005.
Notre Dame (26-4) was playing in its fifth final four in the past six seasons. The Eagles lost to West Chester Lakota West 44-38 in the 2015 D-I state final.
Notre Dame got off to a solid start, holding the Cougars scoreless for a stretch of 5:37 at one point in taking an 11-4 lead after one quarter.
But after Hampton-Bey gave the Eagles a 17-10 lead by following her own missed free throw with a rebound and layup 1:15 into the second quarter, Mount Notre Dame responded with an 11-0 run to take the lead.
Hoefling ignited the surge with a put-back bucket with 6:07 left in the half, and teammate Abby Voss capped the momentum-changing stretch with a driving layup for a 21-17 Cougars lead 2:04 before the break.
After Notre Dame’s Mariah Copeland and Voss (15 points, 11 rebounds) traded 3-pointers, Hampton-Bey ended the half with a layup off an inbounds pass to send the Eagles to halftime down 24-22.
“Early on, we attacked their zone very well,” Galloway said. “In the second quarter, we still got some pretty good shots and just didn’t finish them. We tried to get the ball inside a little bit, but they did a good job of doubling [Ariel] Cummings inside, which made it difficult for her to finish.
“We got some foul trouble in the second quarter, which allowed them to get into a rhythm, and that put us on our heels defensively. Then they did a great job of getting the ball to their post players inside where they could score. Their offense took away from our start, and then we had to try to survive in the second quarter.”
Marshall opened the third quarter for the Cougars with back-to-back steals that were converted into layups in the first 37 seconds to stretch MND’s edge to 28-22. The Eagles answered with a free throw and put-back basket from Hampton-Bey, plus a 3-pointer from Jala Johnson to pull even at 28-28 with 5:37 left in the third.
But the Cougars took control with a 9-0 run to close the quarter, with Voss banking in a 3-pointer from the right wing just before the buzzer to put MND ahead 37-28.
“We weathered that storm, but then in the third quarter we didn’t execute right away,” Galloway said. “But we battled back and got it down to two right away. I thought if we could’ve just flipped the momentum a little bit we’d be OK. But we could just never get over that hump.
“The kids just sold out for each other. They worked hard and left everything out on the floor. That’s all you can ask for as a coach. They played as hard as they could. We had a great run.”
Copeland, who will play at the University of Toledo, hit four 3-pointers for 12 points in her prep finale. Cummings, who was superb with 28 points and 14 rebounds in the Eagles’ 75-59 state semifinal victory over top-ranked Newark on Friday, was held to two points on 1-for-2 shooting, but did grab nine rebounds.
The Eagles were 17-of-50 (34 percent) from the field, including 5-of-21 on 3-pointers, and were 5-of-11 at the foul line. Notre Dame outrebounded the Cougars 37-27.
Mount Notre Dame was 18-of-43 (42 percent) from the field, including 3-of-10 on 3-pointers, and was 15-of-17 at the line. The Cougars forced 14 Eagle turnovers and committed 10.
Notre Dame Academy’s Maelyn Kizer tries to find a way to shoot as she is pressured by Mount Notre Dame’s Maria Pisciotta, left, and Gabbie Marshall. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Notre Dame Academy’s Ariel Cummings shoots over Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame's Abby Voss during Saturday’s Division I state basketball championship game. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Notre Dame’s Bre Hampton-Bey scored 10 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quater, but it wasn’t enough as Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame held on to win the state title. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH