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FAITHFUL FAN | Cor Jesu grad is link to Notre Dame women’s basketball titles

Niele Ivey, a 1996 graduate of Cor Jesu Academy in St. Louis, played a part in both of the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball NCAA championships.

Ivey played on the first championship team, when the finals were played in St. Louis 17 years ago. This year, she served as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator on the team that completed the second-largest comeback in Final Four history to defeat Mississippi Sate 61-58 with a 3-point shot by Arike Ogunbowale with 0.1 remaining. Ivey also has been a part of all seven of Notre Dame’s Final Four teams.

Cor Jesu hasn’t forgotten the star player, tweeting congratulations to her and posting news articles about her and Notre Dame on the school’s social media. Ivey was the USA Today Missouri Player of the Year as a senior. The four-year starter at point guard finished her career with school records for points (1,977), rebounds (813), assists (600), steals (603) and blocked shots (95). As a junior she led Cor Jesu to a perfect 31-0 record and the Missouri Class 4A state championship.

As a college player, Ivey was the recipient in 2001 of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to the nation’s outstanding female collegian 5-feet-8 and under who has excelled athletically and academically. To earn the award, the recipient must demonstrate leadership, character, loyalty, all-around basketball ability and excellence in the classroom. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history.

Ivey battled back from two ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries — one five games into her freshman season, second in the 1999 Big East Tournament — to become one of only two players in Notre Dame history at that time to reach the 200-assist mark in a single season.

Ivey is a graduate of three Catholic schools, Immacolata, Cor Jesu and Notre Dame. She has stated that she was attracted to Notre Dame in part because of its strong Catholic values.

After college, Ivey was drafted by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA draft. She played for five years before retiring after another knee injury. She joined the Notre Dame coaching staff in 2007 after serving two years on the women’s basketball staff at Xavier University. Ivey works closely with the development of the Fighting Irish point guards, while serving as the architect of the program’s recruiting success. In addition, she contributes to game scouting, practice planning and summer camp coordination.

In the NCAA championship game April 1, Jessica Shepard and Ogunbowale led the Irish back after trailing by 15 halfway through the third quarter. The Irish finished the third quarter on a 16-1 run to tie the score at 41.

In the fourth quarter, the Irish erased a five-point deficit with under two minutes remaining. A Marina Mabrey 3 and Jackie Young jumper tied the score at 58 with 45 seconds left.

After a defensive stand and forced turnover, the Irish had the ball with 3.0 seconds left. Ogunbowale received the ball and took a dribble toward the corner before hoisting the game-winning shot.

Ivey joined head coach Muffet McGraw, the assistant coaches and players in jubilation.

Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.

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