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PND headed for state title game, blowing by Regina Dominican in semifinals


Mya Wardle
Peoria Notre Dame's Mya Wardle shoots a 3-pointer in Thursday's Class 2A State semifinal at CEFCU Arena. Brock Angle/Clutch Sports Media

NORMAL — Peoria Notre Dame is state-title bound and left no doubt about it in a 71-25 win over Wilmette (Regina Dominican) in the Class 2A State semifinals. 


Offensively, defensively, you name it, the Irish dominated in it on their way to the largest winning margin in the history of the Class 2A state finals history. PND also tied a tournament record with 12 3-pointers, many of which came from Lexi Baer. 



The sophomore etched her own name in the record books by tying a Class 2A record with six of PND’s dozen treys. 


“They step up when we need them to and this is a special group and I’m just so excited to have this opportunity on Saturday,” Peoria Notre Dame coach Layne Langholf said.


The Irish didn’t give the Panthers much hope as Baer’s first three and a layup from Julia Mingus in the game’s first 30 seconds, then triples from Mya Wardle and Mingus put PND up 11-2 with 4:48 left in the first quarter. 


PND’s hounding defense posed many problems early on for Regina Dominican and never looked back, forcing 12 first-half turnovers that led to 15 points while also blocking six shots. 


After a Panthers’ layup from Olivia Fraterrigo to make it 19-7 early in the second, the Irish reeled off a 14-2 run to end the frame. Everyone on the top-ranked team in the final Associated Press Class 2A statewide poll pitched in, with Kaitlin Cassidy, Emy Wardle, Cora Heinz, Baer and Mingus all scoring during the run. 


“[Baer and Mingus] are the best shooters in the state, in my opinion, and it’s easy to hit them and get my assists,” Mya Wardle, who dished out nine assists on Thursday, said.


As a team, the Irish finished with 19 assists on 25 made field goals. 


“When the ball moves like that, they just trust each other,” Langholf said. “When we take care of the ball and can get shots, we just think we’re going to continue to be relentless on the defensive end.”


Baer sank four of her threes in the first half to help put the Irish ahead 33-9 at the intermission. Baer finished with a team-high 18 points and PND’s 3-pointers relentlessly showered on Regina Dominican and it finished 12-of-23 from behind the arc. 


“I don’t really think, I just shoot,” Baer laughed. “They just decided to go in today. Hopefully it stays that way for Saturday.”


The Irish lead reached 30 points with 6:07 left in the third after a Mingus triple, a layin from Emy Warlde and another three from Baer to make it 41-11. Even playing on the state’s biggest stage, PND wasn’t the least bit fazed. 


Their season-long pregame anthem, “We Ready” by Archie Eversole, was symbolic of what was to come.


“I don’t feel a lot of pressure at this point, no team in our history has made it this far so we’re just having fun, we’re enjoying our last three days together,” Cassidy said. “It’s been a really fun ride and we hope to make a statement on Saturday.” 


“I played good during the [Lincoln] game and this was very similar to that,” Mingus said. “I just like this big environment and I trust my teammates and they trusted me.” 


The Irish plan to celebrate the record-setting win with a big team dinner at Mingus’ house and watching plenty of film sent to them by PND assistant coach Ryan Julius. 


His defensive blueprint worked to near-perfection yet again, as the Irish limited the Panthers to 25 percent shooting with only two players scoring more than one field goal. 


“Our kind of defense is pressure, pressure, pressure,” Mingus said. “[Julius] is very big on it and I had him as my AAU coach so I’ve been working with that defense for a while now. It’s been something we’ve been building up over years of practice; we started it at the JV level and carried it over to the varsity level.”


Mingus added 17 points while Kaitlin Cassidy finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Mya Wardle facilitated with five points, nine assists and a pair of steals. 


Every player on the Irish roster saw the floor, with Cora Heinz adding seven off the bench and Allie Stickelmaier chippin in six. In fact, PND’s Rylie Bare scored her first point of the season in the semifinal victory, a free throw in the waning minutes to put the cherry on top. 


“It’s really exciting, we’re all super happy for her and she definitely deserves it,” Mingus said. “It’s just really fun to watch your teammates get out there and get the opportunity.”


PND will take on the winner of Thursday’s other Class 2A semifinal between Nashville and Robinson in Saturday’s state title game, which tips off at 1 p.m. The Irish hope to be wearing similar smiles after a similar effort in less than 48 hours. 

 

“It’s going to be good, I feel really confident in Saturday and we have a lot of fun together, a lot of laughs, a lot of smiles,” Mya Wardle said.




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