March 1, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Sophomore forward Katy Flecky canned two free throws with two seconds to play, lifting Notre Dame to a 62-60 victory over Seton Hall in BIG EAST Conference action Saturday afternoon at the Joyce Center. It was the fourth time in six games this season that the Irish have won a game decided by five points or less, and it sent a Senior Day crowd of 7,328 home happy.
Freshman forward Courtney LaVere tossed in a game-high 20 points for Notre Dame, including the game-tying layup with 7.8 seconds remaining. It was the fifth 20-point game of the year for the Irish rookie, who made seven of 13 shots and six of seven free throws. In her final home game, senior guard Alicia Ratay also scored a game-best 20 points and became Notre Dame’s career three-point field goal leader with 252 treys, three more than the previous record holder, Sheila McMillen.
Sophomore forward Jacqueline Batteast narrowly missed her seventh double-double of the season, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame. Saturday’s game marked the 20th time this season the Irish have had at least three double-figure scorers in a single contest. Junior guard Le’Tania Severe chipped in with a season-high seven assists for Notre Dame, which shot 56 percent from the field in the second half.
Leslie Ardon paced three Seton Hall players in double figures with 16 points, as well as a game-high 10 rebounds. Melissa Langelier came off the bench to tally 13 points, including three three-pointers, and Cecilia Lindqvist contributed 10 points for the Pirates, who had a game decided by 10 points or less for the 14th time this year (6-8 in those games).
Following an emotional Senior Day ceremony prior to the game, Notre Dame came out ice cold, misfiring on 12 of its first 13 shots. Seton Hall took full advantage of the Irish shooting woes, jumping out to a pair of 12-point leads, the last at 19-7 with 6:44 to go in the first half. The lead remained in double digits for another two minutes, before Notre Dame scored six of the last eight points in the period to slice the Pirate edge to 27-21 at the half.
The Irish (17-9, 9-6 BIG EAST) wiped their deficit clean in the opening three minutes of the second half, going on an 8-2 run. The spurt was highlighted by Ratay’s record-breaking three-pointer at the 18:42 mark. Sophomore center Teresa Borton added a layup to tie the game at 29-29 with 17:49 to play.
Seton Hall (13-12, 7-8) halted the Notre Dame charge and rebuilt a 36-33 lead two minutes later when Charlene Thomas knocked down a baseline jumper. However, the Irish counterpunched with 9-0 run, punctuated by a three-pointer from Batteast at the 10:59 junction. The Pirates then offered their own rally, scoring seven straight points to retake a 43-42 lead with just over nine minutes to go.
From there, neither team led by more than three points, with eight ties and nine lead changes down the stretch. At times, it seemed like a giant chess game, with every Seton Hall move being matched by Notre Dame. The Pirates took a 56-53 lead on a Lindqvist triple with 2:59 to play, but Ratay answered with her own trey 15 seconds later. Langelier then hit two free throws which were countered with a Ratay layup, tying the game at 58-58 with 1:14 to play.
Notre Dame forced a turnover on Seton Hall’s next possession, but could not cash in when Ratay missed a jumper in the lane and Borton fouled LaNedra Brown on the rebound with 29.7 seconds left. Brown then made both of her free throws to give the visitors their last lead of the day and set up the frantic final half-minute.
After a SHU timeout, Notre Dame worked the ball to Batteast at the top of the key. She drove the lane and at the last second, she dished off to a wide-open LaVere and the freshman made no mistake, knotting the score at 60-60. The Pirates got the ball to halfcourt and called timeout in front of their bench with 3.8 seconds left. However, Seton Hall’s plans were foiled when Flecky tipped away the inbounds pass and Brown fouled her as the pair scrambled for the loose ball.
Flecky, a 63-percent foul shooter, gave Irish fans a momentary scare on her first free throw, banging it hard off the heel of the rim before it settled through the iron. Her second shot was true as well, giving Notre Dame its third double-digit comeback victory of the season, and its sixth in the last three seasons. Ironically, the Irish turned a similar trick against Seton Hall last season, climbing out of a pair of 10-point holes to win on the road.
Saturday’s Irish victory, coupled with Miami’s loss at Boston College, has assured Notre Dame of no worse than the No. 6 seed in the upcoming BIG EAST Championship. The Irish remain tied for fifth in the league standings with Virginia Tech, but the Hokies have the tiebreaker edge after they defeated Notre Dame, 53-50, back on Feb. 9 in Blacksburg.
The Irish will close out the regular season Tuesday at 7 p.m. (EST) when they travel to Syracuse, N.Y., for a matchup with the Orangewomen. The last time those two teams met, Syracuse upset Notre Dame, 84-79, in the quarterfinals of last year’s BIG EAST Championship.
— ND —