Defense, balance leading Peoria Notre Dame girls to 10-1 start

Irish have beaten three state-ranked teams in last 10 days
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 10:46 PM CST
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - Peoria Notre Dame girls basketball is red hot. The Class 3A No. 9 Irish have won five straight games including three in the last 10 days against state-ranked opponents in 3A No. 6 Metamora, 4A No. 8 Normal Community, and, most recently, 3A No. 1 Peoria High in double-overtime on Tuesday, avenging their lone loss of the season against the Lions. Head coach Layne Langholf is in his fifth season with PND and says this is the best start he’s ever seen from one of his teams.

“It does kind of put a target on our back,” Langholf said. “But our kids have really been excited about their success and the fact that we’re getting a little noteriety around here and are looking forward to the next challenge.”

The Irish have been getting it done on the defensive end of the court during this stretch, allowing just 32.5 points per game.

“We have always said that our offense comes from our defense and I really think that’s a great mindset to have,” senior guard Molly Rickey said. “Because once you get that steal, then all the other transition points come and that’s when it’s fun.”

PND is a defensive terror and also a force on offense with plenty of talented scorers like Rickey, fellow senior Delaney Cook and sophomore star Mya Wardle, but the secret sauce is the team’s depth and overall balance.

“The more we’ve gone on the year, the more I’ve realized we have a lot of different weapons in a lot of different areas,” Wardle said. “And the more we play, the more it comes out. I think that we just have so many good role players that we all work really well together and it’s very fun to play with. So I think we have all the weapons that we need to go pretty far in the season.”

Teams will be gunning for the Irish the rest of the way, but Wardle says that pressure is a privilege and they’re ready for whatever challenges come their way mostly because of how much this team loves each other.

“It’s fun on the court, that much is obvious, but it’s so much fun off the court,” Wardle said. “We are just a funny team, we have a lot of personalities on our team, I can’t even lie. So it’s so much fun, especially with this group, it’s been a blast.”

And the Irish think they have what it takes to take this season a long way.

“I love this team to death,” Rickey said. “I think that this is our year and we’ve just grown so close this year. I want to go all the way, go to state.”

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