Notre Dame's Reimer, UNC's Mavunga meet again on women's basketball floor

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Call it the battle within the war.

Notre Dame's 100-75 women's basketball victory over North Carolina Thursday night was the backdrop for a clash of Indiana's best.

Sort of.

Last year, the two hot commodities in Indiana girls high school basketball were Hamilton Southeastern High's 6-foot-3 Taya Reimer, who matriculated to Notre Dame, and Brownsburg's 6-3 Stephanie Mavunga, who went to -- you guessed it -- North Carolina.

The two squared off against each other for four years in high school. Mavunga was selected as Indiana's Miss Basketball after her career was over. Reimer, was second in the voting, but somehow was chosen as the National Player of the Year.

Now, that makes a lot of sense. Right?

"She had a great season (last year)," Reimer said of Mavunga. "I like to think I did all right in high school. She's a great player. She deserved it. No sweat.

"It's a great rivalry. We're friends."

Politics aside, the rivalry has gone to another level -- though they both downplayed any personal attachment to the individual competition.

"Can't say there was (any extra motivation)," Reimer said with a shrug.

C'mon, talk all you want. Human nature says this one had to be pretty special.

"I would have (had extra motivation) if it was me," said Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. "I thought (Reimer) might. Both of them played pretty well. It was a good matchup for them."

Mavunga started, played 17 minutes, and had eight points (3-of-10 shooting), four rebounds, three blocks and four turnovers.

Once, early in the second half, she got yanked after giving up an easy back-door basket to Jewell Loyd.

Reimer came off the bench and scored six points in 18 minutes. Along with that she had five rebounds and three blocks.

One of those blocks was an all-ball on Mavunga in the confusion under the basket.

"This is a different level," Reimer said, staunchly standing by her statement that the matchup wasn't special.

Mavunga certainly was cognizant of the challenge ahead.

"We've had numerous battles," Mavunga said. "Coming into today, I really didn't think of it as me versus Taya. I was just thinking of it as UNC versus Notre Dame.

"We've had a lot of tough battles -- her guarding me and me guarding her brought back a lot of memories.

"We've both grown some and matured some on and off the court."

"She's the same as I remember; a very physical player," Reimer said of Mavunga. "(She was) very dominant inside.

"It was good for me. I know how she plays. It was a little 'cheat' for me."

"At this level, freshmen learn a whole new system; a whole new level of basketball," said Irish assistant Carol Owens, who is in charge of the posts. "The scouting helps tendencies. Taya's not the same player she was in high school.

"We try not to put too much emphasis on those kids from the Indianapolis area. We had to have a big rebounding night from all the posts. (Carolina) is so athletic."

Reimer played a role in Notre Dame claiming a 45-36 advantage on the boards. When the Irish are able to rebound, it fuels a transition game that's lethal.

"We were focusing on rebounding," Reimer said. "We knew they were very athletic and we had to control the boards.

"We tried to get them in foul trouble and go at them."

Knowing how an opponent will react is an edge that can't be overlooked. Then that little extra tinge of emotion is always a plus.

No matter how often they swear it wasn't a factor.



Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen, right, gets pressure from UNC's Stephanie Mavunga, left, and Xylina McDaniel during the Notre Dame-UNC women's basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014,inside the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN