FAIRFIELD — When points are in small order like they were in the SWC quarterfinal matchup between Notre Dame-Fairfield and Masuk, rebounding becomes paramount.
Good thing the Lancers have seniors Gabrielle Joseph and Zuquila Mbachiantim for just that reason.
The pair led Notre Dame-Fairfield with a combined 27 rebounds and 20 points as the Lancers held off a late Masuk rally to win 43-35 on Friday night.
“Gabby and Z are consistently cleaning the glass,” Lancers coach Eric DeMarco said. “(They) are two kids that have been in every war here the last four years. So we kind of expect it.”
Joseph finished the game with 12 points and 16 rebounds for the double-double.
“My mindset was because I wasn’t getting a lot of touches scoring,” Joseph said. “I was like let me try to work on my defense to try and help my team out. I do that the best that I can, so that I’m always doing the little things for my team.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half and Masuk trailed by four heading into halftime.
The Panthers battled throughout the second half, never going away as the lead was cut all the way to one. Masuk received strong performances from junior Isabella Migliaro — who finished with nine points — and junior Bri Craig — who finished with eight points and three rebounds.
But one point was as close as the Panthers would get. Freshman guard Yamani McCollough, who finished with 11 points, three assists, and three steals — closed the door on a Masuk rally with late free throws to ice the game away.
“Regardless of the loss,” Craig said. “We’ve overcome a lot this season. We’ve come this far, we’ve earned a spot in SWCs, it was definitely teamwork.”
Despite the loss, there was nothing for the Panthers team to be ashamed of, Masuk coach Michael Collins said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the kids,” he said. “Notre Dame is a very good team that is exceptionally coached and for our kids to battle the way they did, I think it showed the character of every single kid in the program.”
With the win the Lancers will move on to the SWC semifinals where they will face the winner of Bethel and Weston, but Joseph said the team is not done yet.
“This is going to give us an extra push,” she said. “To know that we’ve got our groove back and hopefully make it to the SWC Championship Game.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Joseph. The senior forward finished with 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds to lead the Lancers into the SWC Semifinals.
“As long as you’re focused in what’s going on. We’re not worried on the last play. We’re worried about the next play. We can be a tough out.” — ND-Fairfield coach Eric DeMarco
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 43, MASUK 35
Gabby Beckett 2 0-0 4 Kaitlyn Infante 2 0-0 6 Isabella Migliaro 3 0-0 9 Bri Craig 3 2-4 8 Susan Mathews 0 0-0 0 Emily Rentz 3 2-2 8. Totals: 13 4-6 35.
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD (17-4)
Yamani McCollough 4 3-7 12 Erin Harris 2 0-0 4 Aliyah Louis 1 0-0 2 Ciara Brown 2 0-3 4 Gabrielle Joseph 4 4-8 12 Zuquila Mbachiantim 4 0-0 8 Brittany Fulton 0 1-4 1 Alexa Volpacchio 1 0-0 2 Krystalee Fernandez 0 0-0 0 Mia Dunn 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 8-22 43.
MASUK 5 10 7 13—35
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD 8 11 9 15—43
3-Pointers: NDF— McCollough; M— Infante 2