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Notre Dame holds off upset bid by Holy Cross in girls 35th District basketball championship game

By Brendan Connelly
NKyTribune sports reporter

The Notre Dame Pandas captured their fourth straight 35th District girls basketball championship Thursday with a 47-40 win over Holy Cross in the title game at Beechwood High School.

It was Notre Dame’s seventh straight win over the Indians, dating back to the 2018-2019 season, but the close score was a bit surprising. The 23-3 Pandas came into the game with an average winning margin of 22.6 points.

Julia Hunt of Holy Cross and Macie Feldman of Notre Dame battle for position to get a rebound. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

In the fourth quarter, Notre Dame had a slim 35-32 lead before scoring six straight points off turnovers to take control. They closed out the win by making six of seven free throws in the final two minutes.

“That’s our staple. We are a defensive team,” said Notre Dame coach Kes Murphy. “Defense travels, that’s who we are.”

Holy Cross ended up committing 18 turnovers against the Pandas, who matched their defensive average by giving up just 40 points. On the offensive end, however, Notre Dame finished well below its 63.2 average.

Led by six points from senior Lacey Bradshaw, the Pandas took a quick 11-5 lead, but the first half ended in a 15-15 tie as both teams shot less than 40 percent from the field.

“Shots don’t go through, that gets to a kid’s head.” Murphy said. “But (Bradshaw) really got us going, making plays.”

Holy Cross sophomore center Julia Hunt kept the Indians in the game with nine first-half points. But Notre Dame grabbed the momentum in the second half with a 9-1 run and Holy Cross struggled to keep pace the rest of the way.

Holy Cross forward Aumani Nelson slips between Notre Dame defenders on a drive to the basket. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

“We just had to be discipled, execute our stuff, and be poised despite the circumstances and the obstacles we were facing.” Murphy said.

In the third quarter, Hunt scored on three offensive rebounds after missed free throws, including one that cut the deficit to five points. Holy Cross ended the quarter on a high note, beating the buzzer on a breakaway jumper by Elizabeth McCoy.

After neither team registered a basket for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, the Pandas were content to hold the ball. They dribbled for more than a minute without facing pressure from Holy Cross.

When the Indians came out to defend, Notre Dame guard Macie Feldman made them pay, finding Abby Breeze underneath for a layup and getting fouled in the process.

After additional stalling by the Pandas, Holy Cross eventually got the ball back. Hunt found Sarah Bottom for a three from the corner that cut the deficit to 35-32, but the Indians couldn’t get any closer.

Bradshaw was Notre Dame’s selection for most valuable player after getting 15 points and four assists in the district final. Breeze and Kylie Aytes, who had 13 points and nine rebounds, joined her on the all-tournament team. Hunt finished with a game-high 17 points and was named to the all-tournament team along with her Holy Cross teammate Aleah Arlinghaus.

Both teams will find out their first-round opponent in next week’s 9th Region tournament at a draw on Saturday morning. First-round games will be played Sunday at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena.




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