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Notre Dame knocks off unbeaten Doniphan to six-peat as district champions

The Notre Dame girls basketball team runs back towards its bench to celebrate its 59-57 win over Doniphan for the Class 4 District 1 Championship Friday night at Jerry Grim Court. Photos by Nick McNeal

In a packed Jerry Grim Court on Friday night, the Notre Dame girls basketball team avenged a regular-season loss to undefeated Doniphan in a Class 4 District 1 championship game that will not soon be forgotten.

This matchup went down to the wire much like the first contest back in January when the Donettes won 55-53 in overtime on their own home court. Even though the Bulldogs had home-court advantage this time around, Doniphan still had the majority of fans in attendance despite nearly being two hours away from home.

“There was definitely a lot of energy from the crowd and our team — both benches were going at it,” Notre Dame sophomore guard Brie Rubel said. “It was definitely an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs for both teams. We knew it was definitely going to be physical, and we were kind of prepared for it.

“We really snapped into it in the first quarter because once we all came together we got the game more under control. Both teams went at it a little — we both wanted this really bad.”

The Bulldogs pulled away just enough in the second half for another two-point decision, this time at 59-57 in favor of Notre Dame. With this win, not only did the Bulldogs (20-7) end the Donettes (25-1) perfect season, but it secured the program its sixth-straight district title.

“This feels amazing since we went down there and lost in overtime,” Notre Dame sophomore forward Kate Rubel said. “They come to our house, and we beat them. It just feels amazing.”

Unsurprisingly after the first half of play, the game was tied at 28-all even after Doniphan took a slightly marginal lead in the first quarter. However, the Bulldogs tied the game at the end of the first and second, eventually taking their largest lead of the game at seven points, 42-35, in the third quarter.

This was largely thanks to a player who was crucial in Notre Dame’s Class 5 Final Four run last year, Kate Rubel. She gave the Bulldogs their momentum-swinging lead after yet another successful full-court drive to the basket, something she made a habit of doing throughout the night.

Notre Dame sophomore forward Kate Rubel recorded 16 points, eight rebounds, two steals and one assist versus Doniphan for the Class 4 District 1 Championship on Friday night at Jerry Grim Court.

“This game — I love playing this [physical] style, and I love whenever you can drive,” Kate said. “Just the physicality is my favorite part. It just worked well tonight seeing when it’s all cleared out and just driving to the hole knowing that’s where I’m going to go. That’s where I’m getting.”

Doniphan eventually regained the lead in the first half of the fourth quarter, but Kate Rubel tied it back up at 46-all. Despite this, the Donettes still took a three-point lead at 50-47 with a little under four minutes remaining.

After that, though, Kate and her twin sister Brie Rubel guided Notre Dame to a pivotal 9-0 run that ultimately won the Bulldogs the game.

The run began when Brie forced several Doniphan defenders to guard her inside with a hard drive to the basket. Pulling a fast one on the Donettes, Rubel turned around and kicked the ball out to a wide-open junior forward Eliza Barnette, who nailed a long two-pointer for her 16th point of the night.

Per usual, Brie Rubel made plays like that all night passing the ball as she finished with a team-high seven assists. She was also key defensively for Notre Dame by coming up with more steals than any other Bulldog at three.

Kate Rubel, who paced Brie in takeaways with two of her own and notched a team-high eight rebounds, followed that play up with another bucket of her own. Kate ended up tying Barnette for a team-high 16 points as her score regained the lead for Notre Dame at 51-50 with 2:48 left in regulation.

Even after not having the best first half shooting the ball, an already mature underclassmen like Brie Rubel proved something like that will not phase her. Brie came up nothing but clutch in the final minutes for the Bulldogs, going on a 5-0 run of her own to give her team a 56-50 lead with one minute and a half remaining.

Brie Rubel’s run started out after she hauled in a rebound defensively for one of her seven boards of the night. She then drove down the court and proceeded to nail her only 3-pointer of the game, which happened to be one of Notre Dame’s only three treys against the Donettes.

With a four-point lead after her 3-pointer, Rubel applied pressure defensively at Doniphan’s point of attack and swiped the ball away. Brie scooped it up and without hesitation drove to the basket for two to finish with nine points, propelling the Bulldogs to their six-point advantage.

“I honestly just love [runs like that] because I get all of the crowd support, and I can see all of my bench going crazy,” Brie said. “Knowing that my teammates are always there for me is just an amazing feeling being able to do that. Then we can all get into a flow.”

Notre Dame sophomore guard Brie Rubel nearly had a triple-double with nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists along with three steals versus Doniphan for the Class 4 District 1 Championship on Friday night at Jerry Grim Court.

Even though the momentum was now heavily in Notre Dame’s favor, there was a reason why the Donettes were undefeated entering the contest. Doniphan nearly pulled off a comeback and made one-point game at 58-57 with 19.4 seconds remaining.

Freshman guard Carsyn Hagood made a pair of free throws and then a runner for two more points to finish with a game-high 31. Hagood also gave Notre Dame fits from beyond the arc as she made eight of the Donettes nine 3-pointers throughout the contest.

Hagood was one of only two Doniphan players to finish with double-digit points as freshman Ellie White paced her at 10, hitting her team’s only other 3-pointer.

White even had a chance to give the Donettes a lead with 17.4 seconds remaining after being fouled for two attempts at the charity stripe. However, White missed both shots for the score to remain 58-57 until Kate Rubel made one of her two free-throw attempts in the final seconds to make it 59-57.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Kate joked. “I needed some to go in,” she laughed.

Another player who came up big at the free-throw line for the Bulldogs in the final minute was junior guard Skylar Kraft, who knocked down back-to-back shots for a then two-point lead. She finished tied for third in points with Brie at nine apiece.

While players like Brie and Kate Rubel combined for five of the Bulldogs seven steals, fellow sophomore post Nevaeh Lucious was also key for Notre Dame defensively. The Bulldogs now all-time single-season blocks leader had not one but four blocked shots against Doniphan, holding an opposing post player like senior Kenzie Redus to just eight points all night.

Offensively, Lucious only finished with six points off five attempts as she was in foul trouble most of the night and recorded her fourth in the third quarter. In the first matchup with the Donettes, Nevaeh had four fouls called against her as well, while Kate Rubel actually even fouled out of that one.

“[Having so many fouls called is] a little different,” Kate noted. “It obviously changes the game a little bit, but you just have to learn how to change and correct what you do.”

Winning a sixth-straight district championship is certainly meaningful for every player on Notre Dame, but it means just a little bit more to the Rubel twins since it was a streak started by their older sister Lexi Rubel. Lexi won the first her freshman year in 2019 and proceeded to win three more with Tori, who won her fourth and final district title with Kate and Brie last season.

This is the first district championship for Kate and Brie on their own as the Bulldogs now hope to make a second-straight state final four appearance. “It means a lot to still be able to do this at Notre Dame especially with this team,” Brie said.

Kate added, “It means a lot obviously with our sisters. It just means a lot. I love [winning another one with Brie], and I love playing with her.”

Notre Dame celebrates with the Class 4 District 1 Championship plaque after defeating Doniphan 59-57 for the title Friday night at Jerry Grim Court.

Notre Dame will now face Class 4 District 2 Champions Park Hills Central (24-4) in sectionals Monday and then either St. James (21-6) or Ursuline Academy (23-5) Friday in the quarterfinals if the Bulldogs can get past the Rebels.

“It would be pretty amazing [to go back to state],” Brie said. “We have a pretty similar team to last year, so that’s definitely a plus side. We miss some key players, but I think it would be cool for everyone to experience that.”

Kate added, “I think we have what it takes. We have to work hard on defense — that’s definitely like our main thing. We’ll see what happens!”

Notre Dame poses with the Class 4 District 1 Championship in front of the student section following Friday’s district title game against Doniphan at Jerry Grim Court.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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