UPPER DARBY >> Mandy McGurk dribbled as fast as she could, stopped short of the 3-point line and unleashed a difficult shot in traffic.
The desperation basket was good and, even better for Academy of Notre Dame, the junior guard was fouled in the process. McGurk headed to the free-throw line, remarkably, with the chance to tie the game and convert a four-point play with two seconds left in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s nonleague game with Bonner & Prendergast.
“Well, when I got the ball the only way I knew we would tie it up is if I leaned into the girl and shot” said McGurk, who scored all 28 of her points after the first quarter. She dished out a game-high five assists, too. “I can’t really remember shooting it, I just remember that it banked in and everyone was celebrating.”
And then reality set in.
“Then I said, ‘Well, wait, I still have to make one more shot to tie it up,’” McGurk said. “That was a lot of pressure. Everyone was celebrating, but I knew I had to make it and that I had to focused.”
McGurk swished the free-throw attempt to force overtime. In the extra session, McGurk made the first two baskets and Notre Dame was on its way to a thrilling, 77-69 victory.
McGurk scored all 28 points of her points after the first quarter and dished out a game-high five assists. She is the younger sister of All-Delco Megan McGurk, who played college ball at Bucknell University. Mandy has offers from William & Mary, Penn, Holy Cross, Lehigh and Bucknell.
After missing her first four attempts from the floor, McGurk was excellent. She netted 13 points in the fourth quarter to fuel Notre Dame’s comeback. The host Pandas (1-2) led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter and held a five-point advantage with 45 seconds to play in regulation.
“She struggled initially, but once she settled in she was great,” Notre Dame coach Mary Beth McNichol said. “She’s a competitor. They follow her lead, obviously. We got a lucky break at the end, but Mandy made the shots. I told (the team), the overtime has to be yours. They never stopped playing and never stopped fighting.”
It’s too early in the season to say this was a must-win for Notre Dame, but after a poor opening weekend the irish viewed Monday’s meeting against a solid Catholic League foe as an opportunity to get on track.
“We open the league on Tuesday and we were 0-2. We needed a win,” McNichol said. “They kept battling. It was a good game to see.”
Maggie Pina sealed the Irish’s first win of the season when she converted all eight of her foul shots. Pina finished with a game-high 29 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field. She was a perfect 11 of 11 from the charity stripe.
“With my free throws, I used to shoot hundreds a day during the summer for years and years,” said Pina, who scored 11 points in the opening quarter. “I never get nervous when I get to the line. I’ve made thousands and I know I’m going to do it again.”
Pina, a junior guard, gives the Irish another shooter to complement McGurk. She transferred from Archbishop Carroll, where she was a key player on a team that made the PIAA tournament last winter.
“I used to play in the Catholic League, so this is already a big rivalry for me. I know a lot of girls on Prendie and have played against them before,” Pina said. “I was at Notre Dame in J-school so I have played with a lot of them. Me and Mandy, we have known each other probably since the second grade. We always played really well together so I knew that coming in, it wouldn’t be an issue playing with old friends.”
Bonner & Prendergast began the second half with a 7-0 run and led 44-34 early in the third quarter. Alexis Gleason, a 5-10 sophomore forward, was a major factor. She had scored a team-high 21 points, while sophomore guard Dakota McCaughan drilled four 3-pointers and finished with 20 points, two assists and two steals. Maeve McCann had seven of her 12 points in the first quarter and hauled in a team-high nine rebounds.
“It’s the beginning of the season and we’re still learning how to mesh together,” said McCaughan, who did her part in the fourth quarter, hitting all six of her free-throw attempts. “It’s a learning experience and we’re going to get better.”
Caitlyn Mullen added eight points and Allie Lynch grabbed nine rebounds for the Irish.
Top photo: Notre Dam’s Mandy McGurk puts a shot up in the second quarter against Bonner-Prendie Tuesday. McGurk had 29 points, including a four-point play at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime.