Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
VILLANOVA — Notre Dame coach Lauren Power wasn’t sure who would fill the point guard spot for her this season.
Early this winter, the Irish had several candidates to take over the important position, which was vacated by now-Depaul guard Maeve McErlane.
It took a little while but it turned out the player McErlane helped coax to Notre Dame, sophomore Chloe Knox, was the one right for the role.
Knox led her team with 12 points, seven rebounds and a pair of assists in a 40-24 Inter-Ac League win over Episcopal Academy on Friday evening. Performances like that are starting to pile up in her second season of varsity hoops.
“She really emerged as a leader at that position and that position is just obviously so important,” Power said. “I knew people were going to step up and it was just a matter of who and when and Chloe the last couple games has just been great on both sides of the floor. She can rebound the ball too. She took a charge. I think her defense, she’s sparking the other girls.”
Notre Dame sophomore Chloe Knox led her team with 12 points in Friday's win. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Knox is from Chester. Her uncle Devon Knox played hoops at Chester High. She works out with local trainer Zain Shaw, who also trains McErlane.
The Academy of Notre Dame wasn’t on Knox’s radar before McErlane and her father helped make the connection.
“Maeve let me know about the school,” Knox said. “I knew nothing about the school. I was going to go to an Archdiocese school, but when I found out I had the opportunity to come here, I came to the Academy of Notre Dame.”
“Maeve and her dad John just said, ‘Hey you gotta take a look at this kid,’ and really the rest is history,” Power recalled. “She came to school, showed her around, and I think we’re just lucky to have her. She brings so many elements to the table. Of course we have to thank the McErlanes for Chloe.”
Knox didn’t play a huge role last season for Notre Dame, but she was one of a handful of freshmen who saw minutes on team that had eight seniors on the roster, including Inter-Ac Player of the Year McErlane and all-league selection Julie Dever.
The Irish have a pair of seniors to look to this season. Senior guard Annie Greek (Susquehanna) scored 10 points on Friday and four-year starting forward Katie Halligan added five more points
But before the season Knox and her classmates knew their responsibilities would be significantly enhanced.
“Coach talked to mostly our whole sophomore class,” Knox said. “She said we were the future and we had to be ready to step up. That meant working hard in practice and carrying what we do in practice to our games.”
Notre Dame junior Lizzie Halligan had a quintuple-single in the first quarter. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Notre Dame is out to a 4-3 start this season, including a 2-0 mark in league play.
The Irish led 7-2 after one quarter Friday with Knox yet to leave her imprint on the game. Junior Lizzie Halligan, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds, was the standout in the quarter, tallying two points, an assist, three rebounds, two steals and a block.
EA tied the game 7-7 early in the second quarter, and that’s when Knox got going. She scored five points as Notre Dame closed the period on an 11-0 run to go ahead 18-7 at halftime.
Knox added another bucket in the third and five more points in the fourth along with a handful of steals and rebounds. Her pull-up jumper late in the period helped put away the game for good with EA trying to hang around.
“I feel like my defense translates to my offense,” Knox said. “My defense creates my offense, even if I get a steal and I might not get a layup, I get another steal or an offensive rebound.”
It’s been a group effort to replace the production of McErlane and others, but Power said Knox’s emergence was an important development.
“She started off the season kind of not playing her game,” Power said. “I think she still had a little bit of last year in her like just relying on others because I think we all got accustomed to relying on Maeve and Julie Dever who was here today.
“I just told her, ‘It’s time to take your game to the next level.’ And she just took on that challenge. Now, her whole mindset’s shifted. She’s playing with confidence, she’s playing with poise, she’s playing with tempo and defensively she’s phenomenal.”
Knox said her older teammates pushed her to be confident last season, but it was tough on a team with so many upperclassmen. Power said even this season she didn’t see things click until about Thanksgiving.
But Knox is playing with a clear head as of late and that’s shown in her play.
“The fear of failure, I let that go,” Knox said. “That was a big part of it, disappointing my coaches or being afraid to make a mistake. Now, whatever happens, happens and it’s just the next play.”
Power hopes that confidence continues to grow throughout this season and through the rest of Knox’s career.
Knox’s aggressive style of play and gritty defense already inspire her teammates on the court.
“She’s a quiet leader and we’re trying to get her to focus on maybe just being a little more vocal and really try to control what we’re doing out there,” Power said. “She’s done a great job and she has so much more room to grow and that’s what’s exciting.”
Episcopal Academy: 2 | 5 | 8 | 9 || 24
Notre Dame: 7 | 11 | 9 | 13 || 40
Episcopal Acad.: Bella Notaro 12, Brynn Kehl 6, Gaeli Keffer-Scharpf 2, Ali Dennis 2, Faith Leake 2.
Notre Dame: Chloe Knox 12, Annie Greek 10, Lizze Halligan 8, Katie Halligan 5, Catie Kelly 2, Molly Pegg 2, Sophie Hall.
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