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Notre Dame’s McNichol gets 500th career win

PHILADELPHIA >> When she was Mary Beth Gibson, she was an All-Delco basketball player at Archbishop Prendergast High.

Then she played well enough at Villanova University to earn her place in the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

As Mary Beth McNichol, she has coached the varsity basketball team at The Academy of Notre Dame for 27 seasons, during which she has been a mentor and role model for a huge number of young women. There also were the times she had to be a friend offering words of consolation to the families of players who had died, including Aimee Willard and Nicole (Schneider) Bomberger.

McNichol always has been the one who wanted attention to be directed to others. That changed Sunday afternoon, when her Notre Dame team earned a 58-42 decision over Mount St. Joseph at the third Maggie Lucas Classic at Jefferson University’s Herb Magee Court.

The win gave Notre Dame an 8-6 record for the 2017-18 season and set off a brief celebration on the court as McNichol’s players, assistant coaches, family, and friends as well as the others in the stands helped her celebrate career victory No. 500.

Linus McGinty, who has more than 800 wins during his years of coaching at Archbishop Carroll and Cardinal O’Hara, is the Delaware County career leader among girls basketball coaches.

“Just a lot of memories of players, coaches, games and seasons keep coming back,” said McNichol, who, in her usual business-like fashion was worrying about her players helping clean up the playing area so the next game could get started, not long after the victory celebration came to an end.

“I wouldn’t be here without all of those special people and my family.”

Juniors Maggie Pina (27 points) and Mandy McGurk (18 points, seven steals, four assists) paced Notre Dame, which led at halftime, 36-21, to the victory Sunday. McGurk’s sister, Megan, an All-Delco player for the Irish (2013) who played at Bucknell, was a member of the ND squad when McNichol earned her 400th career victory.

“I don’t remember being at the 400th win,” the younger McGurk said. “But I have seen enough of her wins.

“At the beginning of the season, (the players) talked about this happening. We just weren’t sure when it would be. This was the perfect time for it, at a big (event) like this. She’s so well-known, and that’s why there were a lot of people here. She’s always been such a positive person and helps give all of us confidence.”

Megan McGurk echoed some of her sister’s sentiments.

“She’s such a calm and positive person,” she said of McNichol. “She’s able to network with so many other people, and she was a big help to me during the recruiting process. She just means so much to so many of us in basketball.”

Pina joined the Notre Dame basketball program this season after playing at Archbishop Carroll for two years.

“She’s always into every game,” Pina said of her coach. “And you know she’s enjoying whatever she is doing. I’m glad we got the win over Episcopal (Friday) and then could get this win here today for her.”

Among the former Notre Dame assistant coaches at Sunday’s game were Sue Phelan, who spent more than 20 years on the bench beside McNichol, and Kate Rupertus, an art teacher at Notre Dame who played for McNichol and spent some time as her junior varsity coach.

“I’m delighted for her,” Rupertus said. “I have some of her players in my classes, and you can see at school how special she has been over all the years.”

McNichol’s twin daughters, Ky and Kacy, were about five years old when their mother started coaching at Notre Dame. Both eventually played for her. Ky is head coach at defending Class 5A district champion Springfield High, while Kacy, a former assistant at University of the Sciences, is head coach at Harriton High.

“I think some of my best memories were when we were coming to practice when we were five and Brooke was one of her players and was one of our special friends,” Ky said of Notre Dame assistant coach Brooke (Driscoll) Keith.

“My mom’s always loved the game, been such a positive person, and has been so dedicated to Notre Dame.”

Kacy McNichol noted how her mother was so excited by the Eagles’ playoff win over the Atlanta Falcons Saturday night.

“She just loves her Philly sports teams,” Kacy said. “She always wants her (Notre Dame) teams to compete and demands excellence from them. She’s had such an influence on so many people at Notre Dame for all those years.

“And I just can’t see her not being the coach. I’m not sure she’d know what to do if she wasn’t coaching.”

Her career victory total shows that she certainly knows what she is doing when she gets into the gym each season.

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