The defending Class 2 state champion Notre Dame girls basketball team passed its first test in Class 4 with flying colors, rolling past No. 2 Dexter 73-42 in the Class 4, District 1 championship game in front of a packed gym at Notre Dame Regional High School Friday night.
"We didn't know what to expect," Bulldogs coach Jerry Grim said of the team's first postseason in Class 4. "I think a lot of people were wondering what we could do.
"Really it's just the teams we face from here on out that are different, but we'll do all right."
Notre Dame (19-7) will play De Soto (18-8)in a sectional game Wednesday at Mineral Area Community College in Park Hills, Mo.
Both teams showed signs of nerves early in the first quarter. Notre Dame's top scorer, Ashley Millham, missed her first couple of shots, while the Bearcats (20-6) encountered problems with the Bulldogs' pressure defense.
"Everyone was nervous," Notre Dame forward Sommer McCauley said.
Millham shook off the rust for her first field goal with 1:40 left in the period, and with Notre Dame up 12-11 she hit an open 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 15-11 lead. Dexter continued to hang around through the first half of the second quarter, trailing 23-20 with less than five minutes to go before halftime. Notre Dame went on a 10-0 run to finish the quarter.
"Any time you put pressure on the ball with 17 or 18-year-olds handling the ball, they are going to make mistakes," Grim said.
Despite the Bearcats' best efforts, Millham finished the first half with 13 points. And when Millham wasn't hitting from the floor, McCauley was taking it to the hoop. She scored 12 points and had several floor burns in the half. Grim said McCauley's points were big considering the defensive attention Millham was receiving.
"We knew they were going to try to take Ashley out of the game," Grim said. "Sommer just has such a quick step to the paint."
Up 33-20 at halftime, the Bulldogs kept their lead at 10 or more the rest of the way. By the end of the third quarter the lead had grown to 22.
"We wanted to make them run out of gas," Grim said. "They couldn't stay with it for 32" minutes.
With the win Notre Dame extended its winning streak to 14 games. The Bulldogs' last loss was a 62-57 loss to Anna-Jonesboro, Ill., Jan. 9.
"We have confidence, but we just have to keep working hard," McCauley said. "We're going to try to get some rest, because we got banged up out there."
Grim said he's excited about the way his team is playing. "We feel good, but we've still got some good teams we've got to against," he said. McCauley led all scorers with 23 points and Millham had 19.
Katie Dunlap led the Bearcats with 16 points.