By John Blomster
Notre Dame of Belmont upset third-seeded St. Ignatius Prep 34-31 in the first round of the girls West Catholic Athletic League basketball playoffs Tuesday night.
St. Ignatius (17-8) jumped out to a 13-10 lead in the first quarter, but the sixth-seeded Tigers scored 11 unanswered points and outscored the Wildcats 15-6 in the second quarter to take over the lead for good.
Leading 25-19 in the second half, Notre Dame (14-11) shot 3-of-14 from the field and 3-of-6 from the free throw line with 13 turnovers. Despite their offensive struggles, the Tigers were barely able to hold off the Wildcats in the final minute of the game.
“We just didn’t shoot well,” said St. Ignatius Head Coach Michael Mulkerrins. “You’ve give credit to [Notre Dame], they played good [defense], but we didn’t shoot well.”
Despite outscoring the Tigers 12-9 in the second half, St. Ignatius was unable to capitalize on key scoring opportunities. The Wildcats missed 18-of-21 shots in the second half and shot 23 percent from the floor for the game.
St. Ignatius standout senior Eilise O’Connor led the Wildcats offensively, scoring a game-high 17 points.
“We’re losing three great seniors,” Mulkerrins said of O’Connor and fellow seniors Caroline Barrack and Marisa Williams.
“It’s going to be a great loss, but every team goes through great players graduating. We’re just going to worry about next year next year.”
The Wildcats cut the lead to 32-31 after an O’Connor free throw with 40 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Tigers answered with one final basket, and the Wildcats could not add the necessary three points to send the game into overtime in the remaining six seconds, ending their playoff run.
“Defensively, we’re always going to be in every game, and that was the case tonight,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Josh Davenport. “We were able to get stops, and I thought we did a great job of rebounding and not giving them second shots, which was huge, because they’re going to hurt you if you give them second shots. They’re too skilled”
Notre Dame junior Emily Morris had team-high nine points.
With the win, Notre Dame will face top-seeded Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the quarterfinals. As the regular season champion, Mitty had a first-round bye.
“St. Ignatius is our toughest matchup,” said Davenport. “So I feel really good about our chances against anybody.”