By John Lachmann
Notre Dame put itself among very elite local company on Saturday but fell short of capturing the ultimate state prize.
The Pandas became just the third area team to advance to the state final by beating Louisville DuPont Manual, 64-60, before falling to Marion County, 52-36 in the championship game.
Now-defunct Crescent Springs and Highlands are the only Northern Kentucky teams ever to play in a state title game, and both lost in the final. The Bluebirds played in the championship in 1994 and Crescent Springs advanced in 1923.
Notre Dame had to battle back in the fourth quarter of its semifinal, as the team entered the fourth quarter trailing by a point.
Junior guard Paige Kellam’s tip-in on the Pandas’ first possession of the fourth quarter gave Notre Dame the lead.
Senior forward Olivia Voskuhl hit the next four field goals for the Pandas, who were tied at 58 with 1:03 remaining after a Crimsons free throw.
Sophomore forward Haylee Smith was fouled with 42 seconds left and hit both free throws to give the Pandas the lead for good.
DuPont Manual turned the ball over and was forced to foul. Junior guard Elly Ogle knocked down a pair of foul shots to extend the Notre Dame lead to four, 62-58.
A layup by senior Destony Curry with 19 seconds to play cut the lead to two, but Voskuhl was fouled and made both shots from the charity stripe three seconds later.
Smith pulled down a rebound off a missed shot in the final seconds to ice the win.
Voskuhl led the Pandas with 18 points and 10 rebounds, with 12 and six coming in the second half. Ogle was also clutch in the second half, scoring 11 of her 16 points after the break in addition to finishing with four steals.
Kellam and junior forward Carlee Clemons scored 12 points each. Kellam tallied seven steals, and Clemons dished for five assists.
Notre Dame was a woeful 6-for-17 from the foul line in the first three quarters but drained 11 of their final 12.
In the title game, Marion County ran out to a 13-point halftime lead and the Pandas were never able to challenge.
Notre Dame trailed by five after the first quarter only after hitting back-to-back shots late in the frame, and the Knights ran off the first seven points of the second stanza and never led by less than nine the rest of the game.
Smith paced the Pandas with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Voskuhl chipped in 11 points.
Senior guard Makayla Epps rolled up a game-high 15 points for Marion County, which finished unbeaten.
NOTRE DAME 17-9-17-21—64
DuPONT MAN. 17-11-16-16—60
NOTRE DAME (29-5): Voskuhl 7 4 18, Smith 1 4 6, Ogle 5 6 16, Kellam 5 2 12, Clemons 5 1 12. Totals 23 17 64.
DuPONT MANUAL (25-9): Mitchell 0 2 2, Styles 2 1 5, Allen 8 1 22, Curry 7 3 19, Long 2 1 5, McCune 3 1 7. Totals 22 9 60.
3-pointers: ND—Clemons. DM—Allen 5, Curry 2.
NOTRE DAME 11-7-12-6—36
MARION CO. 16-15-12-9—52
NOTRE DAME (29-6): Voskuhl 5 0 11, Smith 4 4 12, Ogle 1 1 3, Clemons 2 2 6, Stallman 1 0 2, Henderson 1 0 2. Totals 14 7 36.
MARION COUNTY (39-0): Powell 3 1 7, Goodin-Rogers 5 0 10, Calhoun 1 3 5, Epps 6 3 15, Tonge 3 3 9, Howard 2 0 6. Totals 20 10 52.
3-pointers: MC—Howard 2. ND—Voskuhl.
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A special "Sports of All Sorts" episode was broadcast Sunday evening to look back at the many memories and lasting impact 9 On Your Side's Dennis Janson has had on the Tri-State community.