TOLEDO – In a typical year the match-up between Toledo Notre Dame and Toledo St. Ursula would have major playoff implications but this year things are much different.
The St. Ursula Arrows have been struggling through a difficult year under new coach Dave Rieker and are completely out of playoff consideration while Notre Dame, although still in contention for a City League playoff spot, is trying to find their way after losing their best player, Patrice Lalor, to a season ending injury.
Nevertheless, the rivalry itself remains intense and the Notre Dame Eagles were glad to come away with a hard-earned, 66-49, victory on Wednesday.
In the game’s opening minutes both teams seemed intent on establishing a record for turnovers as each team had five turnovers in the game’s first three minutes.
“The first half, you know, this is a big rivalry game for both teams,” said Notre Dame coach Rhett Boyd. “Both teams came out and they’re going a hundred miles an hour but unfortunately the ball is going one eighty and both teams left the ball behind a little bit and turned it over but it settled down.”
As noted by coach Boyd, the teams did eventually settle down but it took the favored Eagles longer than expected to take control of the game. The pesky Arrows, playing before their loyal and vocal student body, gave the Eagles everything they could handle for three quarters before fading in the fourth quarter.
“It has been a problem for us all year,” said St. Ursula coach Dave Rieker. “We manage to play well and then lose our focus or something. We have talked about it all year but cannot seem to shake it. We had them (Notre Dame) right where we wanted them but couldn’t finish.”
After three quarters, the Arrows were within one point of the Eagles, 39-38 and on the verge of a possible upset that would have had disastrous effects on Notre Dame’s playoff hopes. The Eagles, however, out scored the Arrows, 27-11, in the fourth quarter to win going away.
Surprisingly it was not Notre Dame’s outstanding freshmen, Erica Donovan, who led the Eagles to victory. Although Donovan had a solid first half with 16 points, she had only four in the second half while she watched teammates, Dominique Pryor and Jasmine Blanton, scoring in bunches. Pryor, with 21 points, and Blanton, with 15, took advantage of St. Ursula’s attempts at stopping Donovan to pick up the slack.
“Well you figure after the first half she had that they were going to make adjustments to try and take her away and you know we had a situation in the second half where we got a lot in transition, or semi-transition, we weren’t in the set-up situation too often,” commented coach Boyd.
“But you trust that they are going to make adjustments too which freed up our guards and our guards were able to get down the lane a little bit. We had a couple of dump downs for lay-ups to our post players. They were able to get fouls, go to the line, and make free throws. So that was the key.”
The big difference in the game was Notre Dame’s ability to get to the foul line. For the game, the Eagles scored 25 points (25/35) from the charity stripe while the Arrows managed only 9 (9/14).
“You got to believe that they heard about that in the locker room,” said coach Rieker. “They wouldn’t move their feet. Kept reaching in and kept putting 11 (Notre Dame’s Pryor) at the line and she wasn’t missing. It is tough to win when you do that.”
For the Arrows, senior Courtney Durbin, who has been the most consistent player all year for coach Rieker, was the leading scorer with 18 points. Twelve of those points, however, came in the first half as the Eagles tightened their defense on Durbin in the second half.
With their victory the Eagles remain on target to secure a playoff spot in the Toledo City League playoffs as they improve their overall record to 13-3 and their league record to 7-2. St. Ursula falls to 5-10 overall and 3-6 in the league.