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Bulldogs find way to state title game
Notre Dame rallied from a 12-point deficit to defeat St. Dominic 62-55 in the semifinals
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Notre Dame Bulldogs kept catching up and catching up.
The Bulldogs delivered a 1-2 punch during a 30-second span in the fourth quarter that put them ahead for good and into the state championship after knocking off St. Dominic 62-55 in a state semifinal game Friday at Mizzou Arena.
Notre Dame grabbed an early lead, but St. Dominic responded and led for most of the contest. The Bulldogs regained the lead when Jane Morrill scored with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the fourth. Then Allyson Bradshaw buried a 3-pointer 28 seconds later to give the Bulldogs a 49-44 lead.
"We said that was the backbreaker," St. Dominic coach Suzie Mennemeier said. "We get down by two and I wasn't too concerned then because the game was a tight game all the way through. But that's just what we talked about, they made that 3-pointer and it was like the backbreaker. We never did recover from that."
Notre Dame made sure it didn't surrender the lead again.
"It was huge because then all of a sudden we were playing to win again," Bulldogs coach Renee Peters said. "We were playing like this was our game and we've got something that we want to show you we can do. It finally felt like we were playing Bulldogs basketball. Up until this point, we were just playing catch up and catch up. Finally once we got that lead and kind of started setting the tone then everyone was able to exhale a little bit and just play."
The Bulldogs scored the game's first two baskets before St. Dominic answered with a 13-0 spurt. The run saw the Crusaders' Kelly Schnieders score eight points on 4-of-4 shooting.
Notre Dame answered with Bradshaw and Morrill, a combination that was impressive all night.
Morrill hit a basket and free throw and Bradshaw drained a 3-pointer to give Notre Dame life again.
But the Crusaders rattled off a 7-0 run and took a 22-16 lead after the first quarter.
"These girls showed why we are here," Peters said. "They played with a lot of heart, lot of confidence. The first quarter we came out a little slow. We played kind of not to lose instead of kind of to win."
Notre Dame struggled to find its rhythm in the first quarter, while the Crusaders were 9 of 10 from the field, including 16 points in the paint.
"They came in at the half and they were shooting 70 percent the first half," Peters said. "I was thinking hopefully they weren't going to ride that wave into the second half. They were hitting everything. We were playing a little more passive, so the combination wasn't to our advantage. We needed to apply more ball pressure. I think once we started pressuring them a little bit it was hard for them to get the shots that they were looking for."
The Bulldogs picked up their defense in the second quarter.
After falling behind 30-18, their largest deficit of the game, Notre Dame held the Crusaders scoreless for the last 4:05 and cut into St. Dominic's lead.
Bradshaw hit a 3, Morrill scored a basket, Katherine Blasiney made a free throw then Morrill and Bradshaw both scored for a 10-0 run to cut Notre Dame's deficit to 30-28 at halftime.
Notre Dame forced six turnovers in the quarter while holding the Crusaders to 2 of 7 from the floor.
"We weren't playing a really great aggressive defense in the first quarter," Peters said. "In the second quarter we came out, picked up the tempo on defense."
The duo of Bradshaw and Morrill combined for 23 of Notre Dame's 28 points in the first half.
"That second quarter, it just felt like it was our quarter," Morrill said. "We played our game and we came out on top, which is what we knew we wanted to do. It seemed like we just took it on and we actually did it, so that was good for us."
The Crusaders maintained a 42-40 lead heading into the fourth.
Brooke Bohnert scored the Bulldogs' first four points to tie the game at 44-44 with 5:37 left before Morrill and Bradshaw provided the 1-2 punch.
After Bradshaw's 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 49-44 lead, Morrill went down with an ankle injury.
The 6-foot-1 senior checked back into the game less than a minute later.
"It just felt like a normal twist of the ankle -- just same old, same old," Morrill said. "I just ran it off, jogged, tightened up the shoe laces and went back out."
She was vital down the stretch.
Her and Bradshaw combined for 16 of Notre Dame's final 18 points.
Schnieders cut the Bulldogs' lead to 52-49 with 1:26 left, but Notre Dame refused to crumble.
The Bulldogs were 13 of 17 from the charity stripe in the final quarter.
Notre Dame was led by Bradshaw's game-high 26 points and Morrill's 17.
"They've got a heck of a team with a lot of firepower," Mennemeier said. "We just didn't have enough to hold them off there at the end."
Jennifer Rocha netted 23 points to pace the Crusaders, while Schnieders tallied 14.
"I haven't even talked to the girls yet," Peters said. "But when I do they're going to get the biggest hug of their lives. These kids, they mean a great deal to us. I know coaches say that about their players, but these girls are something. I love them and they're special and they're best friends on and off the court."