Notre Dame girls back in the Class 4 quarterfinals
For Notre Dame girls basketball coach Kirk Boeller, playing in front of a small crowd of spectators is not a big deal.
“We’ve played in gyms with 150 people this season,” said Boeller, 32, who is leading his Bulldogs (24-4) into a Class 4 quarterfinal tilt against the Rockwood Summit Falcons (26-3) Saturday at 1 p.m.
The game, originally scheduled for Jefferson College, will now be played at St. Vincent High School in Perryville.
“Our girls have been in a small atmosphere before,” Boeller added.
After the packed crowds on their home court, Notre Dame’s Dawg Pound, a comparatively tiny turnout in Perry County certainly will feel different.
“It may sound like a quiet golf clap compared to what we’re used to,” admitted Boeller, in his second year of skippering the girls squad.
The Missouri High School Athletic Association (MSHSAA) is strictly limiting attendance at the game by issuing only 60 tickets per team.
The fear of COVID-19, the coronavirus, has shut down most sports events in the United States, but MSHSAA is taking a more moderate approach, opting for strict limits rather than no competition at all.
“I wouldn’t want to be in (MSHSAA’s) shoes,” said Boeller. “Everybody’s health is the most important thing, but I want to see the kids have the opportunity to play.
“No doubt it’s a tough decision,” he added.
Back again in the quarters
It’s a return to the quarterfinals for the Notre Dame girls, who lost in the quarters last year, 54-48, to Miller Career Academy on March 9, 2019.
Boeller has three seniors on his 2019-20 team – Yasmeen Rodgers, Emily Kellum, and University of Louisville-bound Riley Burger.
“(Burger) has a natural ability to leap,” said Boeller. “The way she jumps to grab rebounds really sparks us.”
First face-to-face meeting
Notre Dame and Rockwood Summit had one common opponent this season – Farmington. The Bulldogs defeated the Knightettes 61-35 at home Feb. 17 while the Falcons beat Farmington, 58-39 on Dec. 27.
“(Rockwood Summit) has a couple of girls who can shoot,” said Boeller, “plus a 6-foot-3 girl in the post.”
Notre Dame’s tallest players are freshman Tori Rubel, junior Emma Higgins, both at 6-foot-1, plus prolific 6-foot Bulldogs sophomore scorer Lexi Rubel.
Boeller says his team is not tired after a five-month season but admits there is a “strain on the body,” playing such a long campaign.
“When things aren’t going well (for us),” said Boeller, “that’s when I’m the proudest (of them).
“My team is gritty, they’re fighters, they’re not afraid to go after loose balls and they don’t react to pain.”
If Notre Dame makes it to the next round, they will face the winner of Grain Valley (20-7) and Lincoln College Prep (17-9-1) in a Class 4 semifinal Thursday.