WINNEBAGO — Two state-ranked girls basketball teams picked up this game to use as a learning experience.
Peoria Notre Dame will enjoy going over game film much more than Winnebago.
Notre Dame (15-1), ranked No. 6 in the latest Class 3A poll, stormed out to a quick double-figure lead and never looked back, handing Winnebago (20-1) its first loss of the season, 57-45 on Saturday afternoon.
Winnebago was the unanimous No. 1 team in Class 2A headed in, but the team trailed by as many 15 points twice and cut the deficit below 10 only once after the first quarter.
"Oh, you bet we will use this one; we will use it, learn from it and do what we have to do to get better," Winnebago coach Judy Krause said. "I think we were nervous when we came out. It sure looked like it. I don't know if shell-shocked is the right word, but it was tough."
Krause and Notre Dame coach Layne Langholf added the game to the schedule this past week when both teams had an opening because of COVID-19 protocols. Langholf played on the Winnebago boys team and has always been connected to the Winnebago basketball program. And he had his girls ready to play Saturday.
"This was a late pick-up for both of us, but we wanted this one, wanted this one bad," Langholf said. "We wanted to play the best, and in this area, this is the best. ... I'm just glad we had a start like that. Now, we'll use it to learn from, as much as we possibly can."
Notre Dame got a pair of early 3-pointers from sophomore star Mya Wardle, who led all scorers by finishing with 16 points, and the Irish stormed out to a 16-2 lead.
Winnebago's star, returning all-stater Miyah Brown, didn't get a shot off in the first quarter, but she hit a pair of midrange turnaround jumpers to cut the deficit to 29-21 at halftime.
Delaney Cook got hot early in the third quarter for the Irish, and it took most of the quarter for Winnebago to find an answer. Once it did, in the form of back-to-back 3s from sophomore Ella Provi and a long Annika Bielskis' trey, they cut it to 41-32 with three minutes left in the third.
That was it for the Winnebago push.
“We knew Winnebago was going to be good, and this was a big big game for us and our coach,” Wardle said. “We took this very seriously, and we came out and did a lot of what we wanted to do. This is really good for our confidence and for the stretch run.”
The Irish kicked off the fourth quarter with a 9-2 push sparked by a Molly Rickey 3, and even a strong finish from Brown couldn't change the outcome. Brown, who averaged just under 20 points per game headed in, scored seven of her 13 points down the stretch, but it was never enough. Campbell Shrank added 13 points for Winnebago, while Cook and Rickey tallied 13 each for Notre Dame.
"Miyah is such a good shooter, and we knew we had to find a way to slow her down, at least," Langholf said. "We did a pretty good job, but you can see how good she is and how tough they are. They'll be fine."
Brown added six rebounds, four steals and three assists to the mix, but she couldn't stop Winnebago from suffering its first loss. Wardle had three steals and three assists in the win.
"We never had an undefeated season on our goal board, or as something we were shooting for," Krause said. "That's not what all of this is about. So if we can get better because of this game, then that's just fine with us."
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Peoria Notre Dame storms out, hands Winnebago first loss of season