Notre Dame women's basketball seeking ACC perfection

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — The numbers 22, 23 and 24 are easy to remember.

But the Notre Dame women’s basketball players who currently wear those numbers will be hard to forget for all the contributions they have made and the success they brought to the Irish program.

Saturday is a special day for that trio of Madison Cable (22), Michaela Mabrey (23) and Hannah Huffman (24), who will take the floor for their final regular-season game Saturday when the No. 2/3 Irish tangle with Boston College in the final Atlantic Coast Conference matchup this season.

Notre Dame has much to play for. A victory will give the Irish their third straight outright regular-season championship, and will give them more momentum heading into next weekend’s ACC tourney in Greensboro, N.C.

Grad student Cable, who did not play for medical reasons her freshman year, and seniors Mabrey and Huffman will be honored in a pre-game ceremony. Fans who want to watch the ceremony are asked to be in their seats by 12:30 pm.

“Those three have made more of an impact on our culture on and off the court and given leadership in so many ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” said Irish coach Muffet McGraw. “Those three are going to be a tremendous loss to the program.”

That Irish trio, along with their teammates, are likely to get at least one more game on their home floor as Notre Dame is expected to be named a host site for the NCAA tournament’s first and second round games in March .

All three are expected to start against Boston College (14-14) Saturday and all three know it will be an emotional day. The graduating trio has helped the Irish fashion a 27-1 record and boast the No. 1 RPI rating in the country.

“I’m excited, but I think knowing it was the last time will hit me later,” said Mabrey. “I will be moving on in the world. It’s a bit sad. We have the best fans. Every time I step in this gym, it’s so nice to see them. I may not be finished with basketball. I might try the WNBA or overseas, but my long-range goal is to be a sports broadcaster.”

“Michaela is a leader. She is vocal,”said McGraw. “She is the one who will get the players together in the locker room and explain to them how important this game is. When you have her on the floor, she makes us better because she stretches the defenses with her shooting ability. She is so smart and a great passer.”

Cable has been to four final fours, but was injured her freshman year. She wants to make it her personal fifth straight year to reach that platform and the sixth in a row for the Irish team. “It will be a nice thing to be with family and friends Saturday,” Cable said. “It will be a nice moment but we still have to be focused on the game. We have to take care of business.”

Cable has been taking care of business all year and is the second-highest scorer on the team with her 13.4 point average. “Maddie is the most improved player in the nation,” said McGraw. “She has had a phenomenal final year. I can’t imagine where we would be if she had not come back.”

Cable is a bit uncertain of her future plans. “Basketball? Maybe. Maybe not,” she said. “I am still focused on this season and the academic year.”

Huffman, who is Mabrey’s roommate and best friend, calls her time at Notre Dame “the best four years of my life. It has been fun being a teammate. Basketball does so much for you—it has given me close friends for life. I can’t tell you the memories I will have from on and off the court with Mike (Michaela). I will be happy to be with Mike and Maddie Saturday.”

“Hannah has gotten better every year. She has become a mainstay on the defensive side and gives us energy off the bench,” said McGraw, who agrees that the test against Boston College is important to everyone on the team and staff.

“These three players have the mental toughness we need. The have a sense of urgency. They understand what this program means and how high the expectations are. They have been the consummate teammates and are incredibly unselfish,” said McGraw.

So Saturday, Cable, Mabrey and Huffman will be in the spotlight in pre-game Saturday, but sharing the effort during the game with leading scorer Brianna Turner (14.2), the conference’s best point guard in junior Lindsay Allen, who leads the ACC in assists, and others, including the dynamic duo of freshmen Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey, who score at 12.1 and 11.3 respectively

The graduating Irish players enter the Boston College game with a record of 135-7. The Irish class of 2013-14 is just ahead with a total of 138 victories. The record is 143 victories, set by the 2014-15 Irish team.

Notre Dame’s Michaela Mabrey (23) shoots a three-pointer during the second half of Notre Dame's 82-46 win over North Carolina State in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (Tribune Photo/Robert Franklin)
Notre Dame's Madison Cable (22) looks for a shot next to Clemson's Victoria Cardaci (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (Tribune Photo/Robert Franklin)
Notre Dame's Hannah Huffman (24) drives against Boston College's Alexa Coulombe, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Boston, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

WHO: No. 2/3 Notre Dame 27-1 (15-0) vs. Boston College 14-14 (2-13).

WHEN: Saturday at 1 pm (EST)

WHERE: Purcell Pavilion. 

TICKETS: Limited number available by calling (574) 631-7356, going online to UND.com/buytickets.

INTERNET: WatchND

RADIO: Pulse FM (96.9/92.1) South Bend, WatchND (audio only)

GAME NOTES: Notre Dame sophomore Kathryn Westbeld is doubtful for Saturday’s game. She injured an ankle last week and missed Thursday’s victory over Clemson, but is expected to be at full strength for next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Westbeld averages eight points and six rebounds a game ... Boston College coach Erik Johnson is in his fourth season with the Eagles ... The last time BC and Notre Dame met was Jan. 14 in Boston when the Irish won 63-50 ... Boston College has lost nine of its last 10 ... The Eagles are led by 5-foot-11 junior Kelly Hughes, who scores 14.2 points a game. She is followed by 6-4 freshman Mariella Fasoula at 14.0.