Updated at 10:10 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018.
The title run appeared to be in serious jeopardy for the Baylor Lady Red Raiders.
Winners of six consecutive Best of Preps Tournament championships, Baylor was on the ropes in Thursday’s first round at Chattanooga State. Upset-minded Notre Dame had forged a six-point lead with 2:37 to play, but Baylor clamped down behind Raegyn Conley and scored the game’s final 10 points to pull out a 44-40 win.
“We just stayed with what we were trying to do,” said Lady Raiders coach John Gibson, whose team improved to 7-6. “We’re awful young, and it doesn’t do me too good to get too excited about things. We had to get stops to get back in the game, and we got those and made some big shots.”
After Mackenzie Johnson’s layup off a feed from Kate Ford put Notre Dame up 40-34, Conley took over. In foul trouble most of the game, the Baylor star hit a 3-pointer to cut her team’s deficit to three, then stole the inbounds pass and converted a layup to get the Lady Raiders within one.
The Lady Fighting Irish (8-8) missed a shot in the lane, and the Lady Raiders then raced down court, with Hayden Barton nailing a go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the key. Baylor’s defense forced three turnovers in the final 1:30, and Conley sealed the win by making a pair of free throws.
“When you get fouls, it changes how you play,” Gibson said of Conley, who still managed a game-high 19 points. “You start tiptoeing around and taking it easy, trying to make sure you stay in the game. We couldn’t wait too long in the fourth quarter to get her back in.
“Once she settled back in, she responded with some big plays and got us back in it. Our goal is to get a little better each day, and if you had seen us six weeks ago, you would know we have. Give Notre Dame credit. They matched our intensity and they were physical with us and took us out of what we wanted to do.”
Brooklyn Gordon added 11 points for Baylor, with Ford and Johnson leading Notre Dame with 13 each.
Baylor faces Meigs County in Friday’s semifinal round.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.