Where else in the basketball world can you find the nickname of an 80-something School Sister of Notre Dame being used as coaching code for a defensive set?
Sister Hilda Marie Sutherland is a landmark at the Institute of Notre Dame, a place where she made her home and influenced generations of women. While Ja’Lyn Armstrong and Madison DuBose have been at the school for just four years, they too have left a lasting impact.
The Penguins’ only four-year varsity players finished their careers unbeaten against Mercy High School in “The Big Game,” their annual showcase, posting a 39-30 victory Feb. 2 at Towson University’s SECU Arena.
A crowd of well more than 3,000 that included Sister Hildie, University of Maryland coach Brenda Frese and spilled into the upper level witnessed a bit of history, as IND for the first time won five straight games in the 52-year series that culminates Spirit Week and Catholic Schools Week.
Mercy won the Alumnae Giving Challenge – $14,779 to $7,800 – but IND again ruled on the court, thanks in part to some strong family ties.
DuBose’s father, Robert, is the Penguins’ head coach. His assistant is Chris Armstrong, father of Ja’Lyn, which called for additional postgame photos for the two seniors with parents, siblings, nieces, etc.
For the second straight year, Armstrong was IND’s MVP, scoring a team-high nine points and settling her teammates with a frown or smile, as the occasion warranted.
“That kid of yours is special,” Mercy coach Steve Anderson said to Chris Amstrong, who played wide receiver for the Baltimore Stallions during their two years in the Canadian Football League. “If I had my character coin, I’d give it to her right now.”
That’s a token used to promote sportsmanship in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, where IND improved to 10-1 in the B Conference and Mercy dropped to 4-8.
Robert DuBose is not averse to moving his program up to the A Conference, which includes St. Frances Academy, John Carroll and Archbishop Spalding, thanks to young talent such as sophomore Eniya Russell, a transfer from Coppin Academy and the reason for Frese’s interest.
IND started all five of its seniors, and Russell was among the newcomers who had trouble adjusting to the hype, which kept the Penguins scoreless over the last four minutes of the opening period.
“For players experiencing it for the first time, the flashing lights, the distractions, it can be tough,” Ja’Lyn Amstrong said.
“Defense wins games,” is the quote alongside her player profile on the most recent edition of wINDows, the online student newspaper moderated by English teacher Michael Reeb, and the Penguins followed that credo during a decisive 15-0 run that put IND on top 21-7 two minutes before halftime.
Mercy, which got 10 points and continuous hustle from junior Ada Clare Tempert, its game MVP, never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Tempert’s primary sport is soccer. The multitasking for the Magic included several players in uniform joining the two-school choir that sang the National Anthem. One of them was junior Mary Huebler, whose sister, Rachael, is a four-year varsity player.
How badly did Rachael Huebler want to beat IND just once? She entered and departed SECU Arena in a walking boot on her left foot, as she’s been playing the last two weeks with a stress fracture.
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Email Paul McMullen at pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org