Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
SOUTH WEBSTER — With 5:16 left on the clock in Saturday’s season-opener, Notre Dame found itself in a 48-40 hole at South Webster.
The Jeeps were on an 8-0 run behind star guard Bri Claxon and had scored three of their last four baskets off forced turnovers on the other end.
But that’s when the Titans’ seniors banded together and said enough was enough.
Thanks to late heroics from Isabel Cassidy, Ava Hassel and Claire Dettwiller, when winning time came around, the Titans (1-0) ended the night on a 14-2 run to steal a 54-50 victory.
“We had too many errors, too many unforced turnovers and we didn’t take advantage of some situations,” Notre Dame coach JD McKenzie said. “We kept giving them opportunities. That’s a really good team. They’ve won a lot of games in different sports and they have a winning tradition. It was like a carbon copy of last year’s game. It was back and forth and both teams made a lot of mistakes. To watch it, it was probably pretty fun. But as a coach, it was frustrating.”
Claxon frustrated the Titans’ defense all night long. The All-Ohioan found a groove in the second quarter, scoring 13 of the team’s 15 points, and ended the night with a game-high 25.
Coming into the matchup, McKenzie’s group knew they needed to focus on Claxon. But putting a stop to her production is easier said than done.
“I don’t think you can slow [Claxon] down,” McKenzie said. “Our game plan was to send two back on our shots and we got into some foul trouble. So bringing freshmen into a game, who are going to be really good players, this is their first varsity experience against South Webster in a tie ballgame. We forget to get back on shots and we’re turning the ball over. If you contain [Claxon] and not let her get into the open floor, that’s the only way you have a chance.”
After ND’s Annie Dettwiller scored the game’s first three points, Claxon got her first bucket with 5:44 to go in the first quarter. Skylar Zimmerman then gave the Jeeps (0-1) their first lead of the night at 4-3 before Cassidy put the Titans back in front at 5-4.
Just before the end of the frame, Hassel scored her first points to put ND ahead 9-7.
The Titans then took a 14-7 lead with 6:09 left in the second. However, Claxon led a charge to put South Webster ahead 22-21 with 1:27 to go before Annie Dettwiller scored the half’s final three points to give ND a 24-22 edge at halftime.
In the third, the see-sawing continued. South Webster’s Faith Maloney trimmed the lead to a single point at 31-30 before Annie Dettwiller and Cassidy combined to push the lead to 35-30. By the start of the fourth, Notre Dame clung to a 37-34 edge.
But that’s when the wheels seemed to fall off.
Maloney gave the Jeeps a 40-37 lead with 7:12 remaining. After Hassel hit a 3 to tie the game, Claxon led an 8-0 run — one that included scores from Bella Claxon, Maloney and Zimmerman — to put the Jeeps ahead 48-40.
And that opened the door for the late game heroics.
Hassel hit two 3’s with 4:54 and 2:33 left, cutting the deficit to 50-47, before Cassidy nailed the night’s biggest triple with just 37.3 seconds left, giving the Titans a 51-50 lead.
From there, Notre Dame earned two stops on the defensive end and hit its free throws to put the game on ice.
“Isabel played big. She’s been like that since her sophomore year when she was getting varsity minutes,” McKenzie said. “She’s hit some big shots. That girl doesn’t have a conscience. If she misses one, it doesn’t affect her. I was really proud of my seniors at the end of the game. They stepped up and said, ‘We’re going to go win this thing.’ They turned up the heat late.”
Hassel led the Titans with 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists while Cassidy followed with 13 points. Annie Dettwiller added 14 points and eight rebounds while Claire Dettwiller finished with nine points and 10 boards.
After Claxon’s 25 points, Maloney had six points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Zimmerman tallied nine points and seven boards. Liz Shupert also contributed with six points and seven rebounds.
South Webster returns to action at Valley on Monday while Notre Dame travels to Clay on Nov. 30.
“The positives are that the mistakes we made are fixable. It’s not a talent thing and it’s not a speed or height thing,” McKenzie said. “We can control the things that we weren’t very good at tonight. We had a great week of practice and we cleaned some stuff up. That didn’t carry over. But we made enough plays to win the game and every mistake we made, we can fix.”
Notre Dame: 9-15-13-17 — 54
South Webster: 7-15-12-16 — 50
Notre Dame: 17-49 FG, 14-26 FT, 6-16 3pt., 34 rebounds (C. Dettwiller 10), 18 turnovers, 8 assists (Hassel 2, Cassidy 2). Scoring: Hassel 16, A. Dettwiller 14, Cassidy 13, C. Dettwiller 9, Ashley 1, Bradford 1.
South Webster: 21-46 FG, 4-9 FT, 4-10 3pt., 28 rebounds (Maloney 10), 20 turnovers, 11 assists (Maloney 4). Scoring: Bri Claxon 25, Zimmerman 9, Maloney 6, Shupert 6, Raynard 2, Bella Claxon 2.