The Titans have only reached the district championship twice in school history — both coming under head coach JD McKenzie’s tenure.
Last season, Notre Dame almost reached the finals, falling in double overtime to Eastern Meigs in the district semifinals. This year, the Titans were match up against another Tri-Valley conference team but the results were much different.
After allowing 14 points in the opening quarter, the Titans only gave up 11 points the rest of the night as No. 2 Notre Dame beat No. 3 Belpre 54-25 in a Division IV District Semifinal match Thursday night at Jackson High School.
“This week, we talked about getting back to the district finals,” McKenzie said. “Last year we were close, losing to Eastern Meigs in double overtime. We talked about getting that TVC monkey off our back because we’ve been knocked out of the tournament the last four times by TVC teams. We were playing for ourselves but also our school and trying to get some respect for our conference.
“We knew if we did things the right way, we could make a statement and we feel like we did that last night.”
To aid the defensive effort, the Titans called on an unlikely source. Catelynn Ball, who transferred to Notre Dame at the beginning of the season, has only been eligible to play since the 12th game of the season and hasn’t been able to carve out many minutes for herself as the season has progressed.
However, due to foul trouble, Ball was inserted into the most important game of Notre Dame’s season and she didn’t disappoint. Ball ended up playing 20 minutes and although she only scored four points and three assists, her mark was left on the defensive end of the floor.
Ball finished with 10 rebounds and two blocks.
“We were having success with our size in the post and I wanted to keep that going, so I brought Kaitlynn in off the bench, and she was an absolute force defensively and on the boards,” McKenzie said. “Her and Lexie (Smith) going high low, she had some good looks into the post. She played well.”
Offensively, the Titans were led by Hagen Schaefer who scored a game-high 27 points — two more than Belpre managed to put on the board.
“A lot of Hagen’s points came in transition, our (post players) getting the rebounds and (starting the break), and then Molly and Raegan both did a great job of seeing Hagen down the court,” McKenzie said. “Hagen ran the floor extremely well. We got her some good looks at the basket and she put them in. She shot well last night. She shot well from 3-point range. She shot well from the line. She had a good night.”
Notre Dame will represent the SOC in the district finals as they face another TVC team, Waterford, Thursday at Jackson High School.
“They’re a very good basketball team, very aggressive defensively,” McKenzie said. “Offensively, very balanced and they shoot the ball well. They’re extremely well coached and they just have a pedigree of many years of success, and it’s going to be a big test for us but we’re going to work hard this week to see where we might have some advantages we can exploit.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.
Belpre 14 2 6 3 — 25
Notre Dame 10 20 12 12 — 54
Belpre — Reed 1-0-3, Barker 4-5-15, Cowdery 0-1-1, Hughes 1-1-3, Lawrence 1-0-2, King 0-1-1.
Notre Dame — Hoover 2-0-4, Webb 0-1-1, Schaefer 11-3-27, Ball 1-2-4, Kayser 6-0-12.
Three-point field goals — Belpre 3 (Reed, Barker 2)., Notre Dame 2 (Schaefer 2).
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.