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Scott Novak: Irish finale hard to watch

Published 5:07pm Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I know it is not possible, but I really did want both teams to win the NCAA women’s basketball championship Tuesday night.

On one side you had Notre Dame, which I have the pleasure of covering from time-to-time and traveled to Indianapolis last year to see play in the Final Four.

On the other side you have Baylor, which has former Benton Harbor standout Destiny Williams on the roster, which I have had the pleasure of covering.

But there was no way for me to have my cake and eat it to. I had to pick a side.

So I went with the Fighting Irish. I have seen this team play many more games than I ever saw Williams play in high school. I also have never gotten to see Baylor play live, which is something I regret.

So last night’s game was painful to watch to say the least.

I had a good feeling going into the game that Notre Dame could get the job done. I really believed that they had learned enough from the first meeting with the Bears back in November to turn the tables on Baylor.

Boy was I wrong and I knew it from the start.

Even though the Fighting Irish were able to keep it close throughout the first half and even responded when Baylor pushed the lead up to 14 points, I knew they were in trouble.

By the time the lead reached up to 20 in the second half, I began looking for something else to watch.

It was too painful to keep watching this talented group of young women struggle the way they were.

A trio of Notre Dame senior starters have had a brilliant four-year career, but on this night they couldn’t help the team reach its goal of winning the school’s second national championship.

To be quite honest, it might have been one of the worst games the three of them – Natalie Novosel, Brittany Mallory and Devereaux Peters – have ever played.

While this one game won’t diminish what they have accomplished over four years, it will leave a lasting impression on them.

Notre Dame now joins an exclusive club it wanted no part of. The Irish are now just one of three schools to ever lose back-to-back national championship games. The other two were Auburn (three times) and Tennessee.

On the flip side, Williams and the Baylor Bears became the first team, either on the women’s or men’s side, to go 40-0. The Bears are the seventh womens team to complete an undefeated season.

So congratulations to Baylor for winning the school’s second national championship and establishing a new standard for excellence.

To Notre Dame, thank you Novosel, Peters, Mallory and Fraderica Miller for four years of exciting basketball. You have left your mark on this university that cannot be erased by Tuesday night’s loss.

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com

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