The Chattanooga Christian Lady Chargers won a big district game in the hostile environment that’s home to their biggest rival and they did so with their best two players on the bench.
Improving to 14-4 overall and 6-1 in D-II-A, District 6, the Lady Chargers refused to be denied as they beat Notre Dame by a 49-41 final at Notre Dame’s Jim Phifer Gymnasium.
And they did so without much help from senior captains Kate Dirkse and Addie Henry.
It was a very physical game with intense play on both sides. Dirkse banged her head on the floor battling for a loose ball midway through the first half and never returned.
Henry picked up her third personal foul with 3:22 left in the first half and was taken out at that point. She promptly picked up her fourth at the 6:44 mark of the third period and didn’t return until the final 2:40 of the game.
Meanwhile, less heralded Lady Chargers stepped up, played fearless basketball in the face of major adversity, hit some really big shots when the game was on the line and basically proved that they are capable of carrying the load when the situation calls for it.
CCS coach Laura Cottrell knew her team would have to play its best game to even be in contention. Little did she know the path her team would have to take to hand the Lady Irish their first district loss.
“I’m speechless right now,” she said shortly after being given a post-game “shower” by her players with water bottles.
“I’m going to steal a line from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Only God could have orchestrated something like this. Our two best players went down, but we had an eighth grader (Lily Brady) who came in and played her tail off. We had several others who really stepped up, but it was just a great team effort from my girls.
“It’s game like this that make me proud to be a coach. I had no idea what would happen when our two senior captains went out, but we had a bunch of little girls who came through in the clutch and I couldn’t be any more proud.
“I tried to not get emotional in my post-game comments to my girls, but this is why I coach. And this was a really big win, knowing we could pull it off with so much stacked against us. But for me to watch this team come together in moments of adversity really makes me happy,” the veteran coach smiled.
Kenzie Campbell sank a short bank shot in the final minute of the opening stanza as Notre Dame had a 13-11 lead at the first break.
Notre Dame’s only points in the second quarter were a pair of free throws by Averie Sheppard with 2:39 showing to get her team within two at 17-15.
Madison Vandergriff scored all five of her points in the final two minutes of the half to give the Lady Chargers a 22-15 lead at intermission.
The Lady Irish scored the first five points of the third quarter to get within 22-20 and during that stretch is when Henry went back to the bench with her fourth foul.
Notre Dame was able to knot the score two times in the third stanza, both times on 3s by Kate Ford, but Brady answered with a 3 of her own with a minute left to keep CCS ahead by 34-31 with one quarter remaining.
Notre Dame got three straight points from Ford with less than three minutes remaining to get as close as 39-36, but Henry had returned for the final stretch and scored six points to keep the Lady Chargers on top.
Henry and Katie Davick both sank two free throws in the final 15 seconds as the winners had their biggest lead of the game at the end.
Notre Dame coach Jason Hill could only give credit where credit was due.
“I think that Chattanooga Christian outplayed us tonight as their girls really played well. Give them all the credit for taking us out of what we had planned to do,” he said after a long talk with his girls following the game.
“We were able to match their intensity and get back in the game in the third quarter. At that point, it was anybody’s game, but they broke away again. We had to fight hard to get back in it and by that time, it was too late. They hit some tough shots when they had to have them.
“I’ll be interested to see how we respond in our next game. We have big games with Grace and Boyd-Buchanan this week before going to CCS two weeks from tonight. I hope we can fix a few things between now and then.
“There’s a lot of emotion in a game like this. Sometimes we let it get the best of us. CCS handled it better than we did. We should have been able to take the lead in the second half with their two best players out, but we weren’t able to take advantage of our opportunities. We had some open looks, but just couldn’t knock them down.
“But give Chattanooga Christian all the credit. They came through in a tough situation tonight,” the Notre Dame coach concluded.
Madison Blevins scored 13 points to lead the Lady Chargers while Henry scored six points late to finish with 10. Brady had seven, Davick six and the Vandergriff sisters five apiece as the scoring was spread pretty evenly for the winners.
Ford was the only Notre Dame player in double figures as she finished with a dozen. Lauren Bird and Sheppard both had eight while Mackenzie Johnson had seven.
Notre Dame had an unofficial 14-10 rebounding edge in the first half, but CCS finished the game with a 26-24 advantage.
Savannah Ricketts had six while Dixie Walker and Davick both snagged five apiece. Campbell and Ford both had five boards for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame is now 10-10 overall and 5-1 in district play.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 11 11 12 15 — 49
NOTRE DAME 13 2 16 10 — 41
CCS (49) – Mary Vandergriff 5, Madison Vandergriff 5, Blevins 13, Henry 10, Davick 6, Brady 7, Ricketts 2, Walker 1, Dirkse.
NOTRE DAME (41) – Sheppard 8, Ford 12, Sparks 4, Johnson 7, Bird 8, Campbell 2, Fillauer, Scaggs, Dansberry.
3-POINT GOALS: CCS 7 (Mary Vandergriff, Madison Vandergriff, Blevins 3, Brady 2); Notre Dame 4 (Sheppard 2, Ford 2).
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 11 19 10 5 3 — 48
NOTRE DAME 11 19 10 5 3 — 48
CCS (62) – John Rhodes 17, Ellison 15, Hogue 10, Davenport 8, Van Meter 4, Treveon Scott 5, Young 2, Traveon Scott 1
NOTRE DAME (48) – Derwin Lewis 25, Tarik Nelson 10, Price 6, Vaughn 6, Jones 1
3-POINT GOALS: (Lewis 1, Price 1, Vaughn 1); 3 (Davenport 2, Van Meter 1)
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)