Fourth-quarter comeback lifts Notre Dame into semifinals

RADNOR >> During the Inter-Ac League’s regular season, The Academy of Notre Dame earned a pair of three-point victories over Episcopal Academy.

Early in the teams’ Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association quarterfinal round playoff contest Saturday, the Irish appeared on their way to a much easier victory. It didn’t turn out that way.

It took nine unanswered points in the final 2:27 for Notre Dame (15-10) to claim a 51-44 decision and advance to a PAISSA semifinal match with Abington Friends at Neumann University Friday.

Maggie Pina, who did not score in the third period, made three field goals and was 6-for-6 at the foul line in the last eight minutes to key the Irish comeback. Pina, who shot 6-for-8 from the floor, including a pair of 3-pointers, finished with 21 points.

“They were really paying close attention to me (defensively),” Pina said. “I just didn’t want to be taking bad shots then. My teammates helped make things a little easier for me (in the fourth).”

The Irish jumped ahead at halftime, 27-20, making only four turnovers in the first two periods while forcing EA into seven turnovers. Episcopal Academy came out in the second half and went ahead with an opening 8-0 run while playing good defense as Notre Dame was guilty of six turnovers.

Luca Mamula, who had only two points at halftime, went 4-for-4 from the floor and 2-for-2 at the foul line in the third period, helping the Churchwomen to a four-point advantage heading into the final quarter. Katie Weaver (three rebounds, two assists, two steals) chipped in with five of her nine points in the third period for EA.

“I was proud of the way we came back and went ahead of them in the second half like that,” Episcopal coach Chuck Simmonds said. “They have players who can make plays, and they hit some tough shots when they needed them at the end.”

Mandy McGurk (15 points, three assists) pulled Notre Dame even at 44 with a field goal with 2:27 to play. After an Episcopal turnover, Pina went to the foul line and hit a pair of shots to give the Irish a 46-44 lead with 1:19 left.

A Caitlyn Mullen steal put the ball back in Notre Dame’s hands followed by a technical foul call on EA, which gave Pina two more free throws that were good.

Allie Lynch added to the Irish lead with one foul shot before Pina put the finishing touches on the win with two more free throws.

“Each game was rough like that when we played them this year,” Notre Dame head coach Mary Beth McNichol said. “They played a triangle-and-two against (Pina and McGurk), and we knew what we had to do against it in the second half.

“We did some things to help free (Pina), and she got better chances to get good shots.”

McGurk said the Irish players were determined that Saturday’s game would not be their last.

“When things like that were happening to us, we knew we had to keep our composure,” she said. “We knew we had a bad (third) quarter, but the fourth quarter was a new chance to have a better quarter.”

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