READING, Ohio — The Mount Notre Dame basketball team is ranked No. 1 nationally in the Blue Star Media Elite 25 girls basketball rankings.
"It is an incredible honor to be ranked that high in any poll," MND coach Dr. Scott Rogers told WCPO Wednesday morning. "More importantly for us, it's a validation of all the hard work the girls have put in to making their team better."
Undefeated MND will remain atop the Elite 25 even though a few states have yet to cancel their state tournaments, according to the Blue Star Media website.
MND, ranked No. 3 nationally by ESPN and MaxPreps, is winners of 44 consecutive games.
Rogers said the rankings are a significant accomplishment for the players.
"I'm extremely proud of where they ended up," Rogers told WCPO said last week after the state tournament was canceled. "The national poll thing I never understand. There are so many great teams in the country. There are so many great teams in Ohio. We feel really honored to represent Ohio that highly. Obviously that wasn't our goal. Our goal was to win Ohio and the state championship and that's always our goal."
The Cougars (28-0) were scheduled to play Toledo Notre Dame Academy (24-3) in a Division I state semifinal game March 13 at St. John Arena. However, the Ohio High School Athletic Association suspended the remaining winter sports tournaments on March 12 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The OHSAA canceled all remaining winter sports tournaments last week.
MND, the 2019 Division I state champion, 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.
MND opened the season in late November with a 61-59 overtime win over then-national No. 1-ranked New Hope Academy from Landover Hills, Maryland.
The Cougars then persevered through one of the most difficult schedules the program had ever faced.
MND, which averaged 68.6 points and allowed 37.1 points, was 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. Bransford was recently named to the MaxPreps All-American third team.
Senior point guard Makira Cook (University of Dayton signee) averaged 17.6 points. She was 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 were among the other starters.
"We’re extremely excited for MND being recognized as the No. 1 team in the country," Ohio Girls Basketball Report director Bryce McKey said. "It is one thing to be ranked in the preseason or even mid-season when quite frankly, they don’t matter. But to be ranked the best team in the country after play is finished is an incredible honor and testament to all of the work the players and coaches at MND put in this season. Ohio has consistently been one of the best states for girls basketball in the nation and it’s nice to see a battle tested team like MND get the credit they deserve.”
The Blue Star Media rankings are compiled by Christopher Lawlor, a senior writer and national analyst who previously wrote for USA Today and ESPN.com.