READING, Ohio — The Mount Notre Dame basketball team is ranked No. 3 nationally in the season's final ESPN Power 25 rankings.
"I am sure when they see that they will be excited," MND coach Dr. Scott Rogers said. "They had a heck of a year. I'm really proud of them."
The undefeated Cougars are still awaiting word about the Ohio High School Athletic Association state girls basketball tournament. The OHSAA postponed indefinitely all remaining winter sports tournaments March 12 due to the coronavirus outbreak. A decision is expected soon.
"Mount Notre Dame has had a magical season," said Ohio Girls Basketball Report director Bryce McKey. "They've played an extremely difficult schedule and have succeeded in every challenge."
MND (28-0) was scheduled to play Toledo Notre Dame Academy (24-3) in a Division I state semifinal March 13 at St. John Arena in Columbus.
Rogers, a Jersey Mike's Naismith high school coach of the year finalist, said the 2019 state champion Cougars didn't focus on rankings all winter. MND truly just wanted to win a state title and let the rest take care of itself.
"This team just did not want to lose a game," Rogers said. "They just had that knack in them."
MND, winners of 44 consecutive games, is tied with Pickerington Central (including old Pickerington High School) and Columbus Africentric Early College as the only Ohio schools to win seven state girls basketball titles.
Rogers said he has spoken to his players this week and emphasized that the most important aspects are to stay safe and healthy.
"They're hanging in there," Rogers said. "They were devastated (when the postponement) happened."
MND, which averages 68.6 points and allows 37.1 points, is led by several players including sophomore guard KK Bransford (20.2 points per game), who reached 1,000 career points March 7 when the Cougars defeated Kettering Fairmont in the regional final at Princeton.
Senior point guard Makira Cook (University of Dayton signee) averages 17.6 points. She has been a leader for the Cougars all season.
Junior guard Laila Phelia (13.9 ppg.), senior forward Grace Centrulla (Mercyhurst University signee) and sophomore forward Abby Wolterman are among the other starters. Centrulla had nine points, seven rebounds and two assists against Fairmont including a clutch second-half performance.
"Makira and Grace did a great job leading and we also had really good players," Rogers said. "They were all on the same page."
Junior forward Autumn Crockett (four points and six rebounds in the regional final) and junior Cassidy Stainton are among the other significant contributors.
MND opened the season in late November with a 61-59 overtime win over then-national No. 1-ranked New Hope Academy (Landover Hills, Maryland). The Cougars persevered through one of the most difficult schedules the program had ever faced.
"I'm hard pressed to believe there's a better backcourt in the country than Makira Cook, Laila Phelia and KK Bransford, guided by Dr. Scott Rogers, who has coached some of the best players and teams to ever come out of Ohio," McKey said. "The tradition at MND is one of a kind and one that their players, coaches and school should be extremely proud of."