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WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Senior duo finish Notre Dame home careers as winners

Joe Hettler | Monday, February 28, 2005

After post-game interviews Teresa Borton walked back into the Joyce Center arena, quietly moved to the side of the other players and began signing autographs for fans.

A few moments later, Notre Dame’s other senior, Jacqueline Batteast, emerged from the tunnel and was immediately swarmed by young boys and girls armed with pens and Irish memorabilia.

That’s how it’s been the past four years — Borton in the shadows, Batteast in the spotlight. The former doing the little things, making the unnoticed contributions and the latter scoring, rebounding and ultimately developing into one of the greatest in program history.

The combination has worked.

Entering the program in 2001-2002 – the season after Notre Dame’s national championship – the duo had the unappealing challenge of somehow replacing five graduating players, including All-American Ruth Riley, and sustaining Notre Dame as a top-tier program. Through their four-year journey together, Borton and Batteast have done just that – acting as the catalysts in returning Notre Dame to college basketball’s elite class.

“They built our program back to where it was when they came in as freshman, which was a monumental task,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “That was something, for freshmen to come in and have that burden on them and they did a really great job getting to senior year.”

Appropriately on Senior Day, Borton and Batteast led the Irish to victory. Borton had 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, while Batteast added 15 points and four rebounds in the 82-57 win over West Virginia. Like so many other games during their careers, the duo was simply too much for their opposition. The Mountaineers had no answers for either.

And while fans have cheered the two for their outstanding game performances, it’s been the intangibles – the unseen things – that Borton and Batteast do to make the Irish successful.

“They’ve done so much more than statistics,” McGraw said. “I think just the enthusiasm and the chemistry – a lot of it has to do with Teresa and Jackie. They’re so unselfish and they work hard and all the things you need a leader to do, they do for our team.”

During Borton and Batteast’s careers, Notre Dame has reached the NCAA Tournament three times, with a fourth certain for this season, and played in two Sweet 16’s. They’ve led the Irish to a 24-4 record in 2004-05, positioned the team for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and have Notre Dame legitimately contending for a national title.

Four years after beginning their careers in the silhouette of championship players and a championship team, Borton and Batteast leave Notre Dame knowing they set their own footprints in the history books. With just one regular season game remaining, Notre Dame’s players and fans will look toward the two seniors for the performance and leadership needed to be successful in postseason play.

Borton and Batteast hope and expect to meet those high expectations. They hope and expect to challenge for a national title. And they hope and expect to make the key plays at the key moments.

No matter the outcome of this season, McGraw knows life won’t be easy without Borton and Batteast next season.

“It’s going to be very difficult to replace both of them,” she said.

Just like four years ago.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarly those of The Observer.

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