JACKSON, Ohio — Perhaps it’s the fourth time that’s really the charm.
After being eliminated by Eastern in three of the last five postseasons, the Portsmouth Notre Dame girls basketball team finally earned some revenge, as the top-seeded Lady Titans defeated the fourth-seeded Lady Eagles by a 44-32 tally in the Division IV district semifinal on Saturday at Jackson High School.
Notre Dame (24-0) — which was held to a season-low in points — took the lead on a three-pointer 1:19 into play and never relinquished it. Eastern (15-8) made just one field goal in the opening stanza and trailed 19-5 eight minutes into play.
The Lady Eagles came within 11 points of Notre Dame in the second quarter, but the Lady Titans stretched their advantage to 28-12 by halftime.
Notre Dame held EHS to a single field goal again in the third quarter, as the Blue and Gold extended their lead to a game-high 21 points, at 38-17, by the end of the stanza.
The Lady Eagles scored the first seven points of the finale, but surrendered a 4-0 run over the next two minutes and trailed 42-24 with 3:30 to play.
Seven straight points made Eastern’s deficit 11 with a minute remaining, but the Lady Eagles couldn’t make it any closer and eventually fell by a 44-32 tally.
“Some nights you’re a little bit cold, and we found our night,” EHS head coach Jacob Parker said. “I thought Notre Dame came out and shot the ball really well in the first quarter. I think they cooled down a little bit, but they’re a very good team and they executed tonight. If we could have shot the ball better and did a little better at the foul line, it’s a lot closer game. We played very, very hard.”
After making just 5-of-33 field goal attempts in the opening three quarters, Eastern shot 6-of-11 from the field in the fourth to finish with an 11-of-44 (25 percent) field goal rate, that included 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) from three-point range.
Notre Dame made eight of their first 15 shots and finished the game shooting 17-of-50 (34 percent) from the field, including 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
At the free throw line, EHS shot 8-of-18 (44.4 percent) and NDHS was 6-of-13 (46.2 percent).
For the game, the Lady Titans outrebounded Eastern by a 40-to-26 clip, including 13-to-6 on the offensive glass. Eastern was only outrebounded by a 17-to-15 margin in the second half.
“We emphasized the boards in the locker room, said that we had to do a better job boxing out,” Coach Parker said. “They’re tall, my God they’re tall, and they use their size very well underneath to get rebounds.”
The victors also claimed advantages of 11-to-8 in assists, 12-to-8 in steals and 9-to-1 in blocked shots. Eastern committed 21 turnovers in the setback, while Notre Dame gave the ball away 17 times.
EHS junior Alyson Bailey led the Lady Eagle offense with 11 points and three assists. Madison Williams was responsible for both of the Eastern’s three-pointers and finished with seven points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Kelsey Casto contributed six points to the EHS cause, while Olivia Barber, Elizabeth Collins, Kaitlyn Hawk and Kennadi Rockhold added two points apiece.
Bailey also paced Eastern’s defense with three steals, while Barber claimed the team’s lone rejection.
“I think some people see a loss in the district tournament, but there’s not many teams here,” Coach Parker said. “You’ve made it this far, you’ve won something to prolong your season. Of course, it gets the girls who weren’t on the team last year that experience to come here and play. That weighs in very heavy for next year.”
Ava Hassell led the Notre Dame offense with 12 points and five assists. Taylor Schmidt hit a team-best two three-pointers and finished with 10 points, while Molly Hoover scored eight. Lexi Smith had seven points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while Ali Smith recorded three points.
Katie Detwiller and Ashley Holtgrewe rounded out the NDHS scoring with two points apiece, with Detwiller pulling in 10 rebounds. Schmidt finished with a game-high four steals, while Detwiller rejected nine shots.
Notre Dame also defeated EHS in the regular season, winning 56-41 on December 23 in Portsmouth. Only twice this season has a team been closer to NDHS than Eastern was on Saturday.
The Lady Eagles will now have to say farewell to seniors Elizabeth Collins, Kaitlyn Hawk and Madison Williams.
“They have set a very high mark,” Coach Parker said of his seniors. “This is only my second year with them, but the freshmen, sophomores and juniors can look up to this group because of their work ethic. They were in the gym whenever the gym was open, they were at practice on time if not early, and if we could get up some extra shots after practice, they were there. The work ethic is something that you can’t teach, so I hope that my underclassmen can learn from that.”
The Lady Titans advance to the Division IV district final on Thursday at JHS, where they will be met by third-seeded Peebles.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.