Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 18 of 63 MAY 2018 19 BY LOU SOMOGYI T his wasn't supposed to be "The Year" for Notre Dame women's basketball. Cases in point: • Last spring, two former McDonald's All-Americans trans- ferred to other schools. • An unprecedented four ACL tears, including All-American forward Bri- anna Turner and starting point guard Lili Thompson, ended the seasons of those players by the time 2018 arrived. • The Irish suffered a 33-point de- feat at Louisville Jan. 12, the worst loss for the program in 24 years. • No true point guard was left on the active roster by the end of 2017. • Sophomore guard Jackie Young had to play with a broken nose for three months, plus the lone senior starter, Kathryn Westbeld, already unable to practice most of the time, rolled her ankle in the first three min- utes of the NCAA Tournament. Snakebit, cursed, jinxed … And yet, "The Lonely Banner" head coach Muffet McGraw referred to in the rafters at Notre Dame's Purcell Pavilion that highlights the 2001 national title now has an eternal soulmate. In scintillating back-to-back last- second Final Four triumphs against No. 1 Connecticut (91-89 in overtime) and No. 2 Mississippi State (61-58), junior guard Arike Ogunbowale's game-winning baskets in the end im- mortalized her and the 2017-18 Notre Dame team in college basketball lore. "They really dug deep, the Fight- ing Irish spirit," an elated and almost incredulous McGraw said after the victory over Mississippi State April 1, Easter Sunday. "They would just not be denied. Such resilience, persever- ance — a great life lesson for them." It just didn't seem meant to be over the course of four months. And yet it came to be when one least expected it. "What tho' the odds, that's part of our fight song," McGraw said. "The fighting spirit of Notre Dame is just amazing. Relentless, competitive, they have a swagger. "They believe in themselves with the confidence that starts with Arike and Marina [Mabrey], and just filters down through the team." RALLY, SONS (AND DAUGHTERS) OF NOTRE DAME Once the NCAA Tournament be- gan March 16, Notre Dame repeat- edly looked vulnerable. After a 99-81 victory versus Cal State Northridge in the opening round, the Irish were tied 45-45 at halftime two days later in round two versus Villanova, which shot a blis- tering 10 of 15 (66.7 percent) from three-point range in the first half. With the hobbled Westbeld in- serted in a "in case of emergency, break glass" situation at the start of the second half, Notre Dame out- scored Villanova 28-8 during the de- cisive third quarter in what would be a 98-72 victory. Arike Ogunbowale drained not one but two last- second, game-winning shots in the Final Four, with this one giving Notre Dame a 61-58 victory over Mississippi State to clinch the national title. PHOTO BY JOSH BATES

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