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Backward bump enables Pina, Notre Dame to slide to win

RADNOR >> Maggie Pina stood at the free-throw line with a chance to bring Academy of Notre Dame even with Episcopal Academy.

On the front end of a 1-and-1, Pina’s shot had barely swished through the hoop before she found herself sliding backward on the floor.

Episcopal’s Seanna McNamara was simply doing what any basketball player is taught. She jumped into position to box out and grab a rebound.

PETE BANNAN -DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Episcopal’s (14) Seanna McNamera was called for backing into Notre Dame’s (31) Maggie Pina on a last-minute foul shot that helped the Irish secure a 39-36 Inter-Ac League victory Friday.

 

The officials, however, determined that McNamara’s play was too aggressive. McNamara was whistled for a personal foul, which enabled Pina to shoot three more foul shots.

Pina, who entered the day shooting 90 percent from the charity stripe, banked all four attempts with 17 seconds to go.

After coughing up an eight-point lead in the second half, Pina and the Irish rallied — somewhat controversially — for a 39-36 Inter-Ac League win.

Pina described, from her point of view, exactly what happened when she was fouled at the line.

“She didn’t try to box me out, it was like she shoved me down,” she said. “I thought it was intentional.”

Theatrics aside, Pina knew she had to dust herself off and maintain her composure. The game, after all, was in her hands. McNamara and the Churchwomen were understandably upset. The officials took the time to explain the call to both head coaches, EA’s Chuck Simmonds and Notre Dame’s Mary Beth McNichol.

“I didn’t even notice what was going on, really,” said Pina, who poured in a game-high 20 points and was 9-for-12 at the foul line. “I was just focused on my shooting because I had missed some earlier in the game. I didn’t want to let that get inside my head. I knew I had to make those shots and we needed to win.”

The officials explained that McNamara did not give Pina enough time to follow through and set herself.

“They said Seanna went into (Pina’s) space or whatever it was,” Simmonds said. “It’s confusing. So next time out in a play like that, you know … it is what it is. We made the mistake of putting them in a situation where they’re on the free-throw line.”

McNamara drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Churchwomen their first lead of the night with 1:30 left to play. The sharpshooting senior led

PETE BANNAN -DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Episcopal’s (14) Seanna McNamera drilled a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to bring the Churchwomen back.

her team with 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the floor. Four of her buckets came from long distance.

After Luca Mamula hit a free throw to give EA a three-point advantage, Notre Dame junior guard Mandy McGurk sank two freebies to cut the deficit to one. The Irish (7-6, 3-1) quickly got the ball back to set up Pina’s game-winning foul shots.

Episcopal (4-8, 1-2), ranked No. 6 in this week’s Daily Times Super 7, suffered its third straight loss.

“You look back at stuff during the game that we could have done better,” Simmonds said. “Tough way to lose.”

Notre Dame, meanwhile, notched its second consecutive victory off back-to-back losses to No. 1 Cardinal O’Hara and Inter-Ac rival Penn Charter. Buoyed by Pina and McGurk, two tremendous ball handlers who can drive to the hoop and shoot anywhere on the floor, the Irish overcame 1-for-5 shooting from the floor in the fourth quarter.

Save for the final five minutes or so, everything seemed to click for the Irish.

PETE BANNAN -DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Notre Dame’s (31) Maggie Pina puts up a shot against Episcopal Friday evening.

McGurk, who is fielding a slew of Division I offers, added 15 points, three assists and two steals.

“We realized their defenders were relaxing a little bit, I thought, and were able to execute our cuts pretty well. We realized that’s how we were going to score throughout the game,” McGurk said. “I think this was a good step in the right direction. We just have to keep the wins coming and hopefully we’ll be playing our best basketball toward the end of the season.”

***

In her 27th season at Notre Dame, McNichol is one win away from 500 in her career. The Irish will play Mount St. Joseph at the Scholastic Play-by-Play Maggie Lucas Classic Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

McNichol’s owns a record of 499-253.

“It’s been a great ride,” McNichol said. “I’ve had great assistants all along the way and great kids. It’s been fun. It’s a big milestone and not too many coaches get to 500.”

McGurk’s sister, Megan, was a part of the team that got McNichol her 400th win in 2011.

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