Battle of the McNichols again goes to Notre Dame

SPRINGFIELD >> The scoreboard indicated that The Academy of Notre Dame defeated Springfield, 46-35, in the teams’ nonleague opener Friday night.

There were reasons for the coaches from both teams to be happy as well as disappointed while looking at the ways their players walked out of the gym as winners.

Notre Dame didn’t have a bad shooting night (17-for-31 from the floor, including 4-for-10 from 3-point range).

“Our defense has to be much better,” Irish head coach Mary Beth McNichol, whose team limited the Cougars to 11 points in the first two periods then surrendered 24 in the final 16 minutes, said.

At the other end of the floor, Ky McNichol, the Notre Dame coach’s daughter, who is beginning her second season as Springfield’s head coach, was talking about the way her team approached each aspect of the game.

“We played hard and we competed,” the younger Coach McNichol said. “Everyone has bought into the system.”

The Cougars have only three days to prepare for their Central League opener against Conestoga at home Tuesday night, while Notre Dame faces a week in which its opponents include Villa Maria and Gwynedd Mercy Academy.

None of the players on either team have faced the rough kind of weeks Notre Dame senior Leanne Purcell has had to endure with some serious health-related issues.

“She basically was in the hospital for three months,” Mary Beth McNichol said. “She came back to be with us at practice this week, and she was here tonight for this game.

“I’ve been reminding our kids to play every last minute like it might be the last chance to play. We’ve got a player sitting here who would give her right arm to be able to be out on the court right now, so we want everyone to make the most of the chances that they have to play.”

Senior guard Alex Kane scored 10 points, had two assists and made one steal for the Irish. Junior Casey Walsh’s numbers also included 10 points, while Katie Mayock chipped in with six points, 10 rebounds and one blocked shot in her first game in a Notre Dame uniform.

“I know the coaches are happy with the win,” Walsh said. “But we have things we have to work on. Since our coach’s daughter coaches (Springfield), they run a lot of plays like the ones we have. We just had to get used to seeing what they were doing.

“For a lot of us, we had been so sad with all that had been happening with Leanne and were praying for her. We were so excited to see her come back this week.”

The elder Coach McNichol was happy to see the progress has daughter’s team has made.

“They are so much improved,” she said.

Freshmen starters Jordan D’Ambrosio and Belle Mastropietro each tossed in 13 points for Springfield, while Madison D’Ambrosio, the only senior in the starting lineup, didn’t have a field goal until the fourth quarter and finished with four points, five rebounds and four steals.

“We came into this season trying to build on the momentum from the wins we had at the end of last season,” Madison D’Ambrosio said. “We know the coaches better now and know what they expect.”

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