After losing star center Taylor Robinson at the beginning of December for an issue head coach Cord Dockery described as "personal time", the Ladue High girls basketball team has had to re-work its strategy and philosophy the last few weeks, at what for most teams would be the worst possible time -- right smack dab in the middle of the season.
And with no definite idea when to expect the return of Robinson, a 6-foot-3 Temple University recruit who averaged 20 points and nine rebounds a game last season, Ladue has had only a few practices and even fewer games to try to figure out just how to play without her.
Last week, it seemed like the Rams might've figured some things out, as they picked up two big wins over John Burroughs and Parkway West.
But on Tuesday, not having Robinson's powerful inside game really hurt the Rams, who suffered their second home loss of the season, in a 54-49 defeat at the hands of Notre Dame High at the Ladue's Neilson Gymnasium.
"She's taking some personal time," Dockery said. "She's been away from us for quite awhile. She's got some things that need to be taken care of, and hopefully, she can join us here pretty quick."
Without Robinson's presence inside, the Rams have gone heavy with the perimeter players on the outside, hoping the extra quickness on the court would compensate for the lack of size in the paint.
And those extra minutes and shots have gone mostly to sophomore guards Cate Meyer and Kaitlynn Walker -- both of whom are fairly dynamic scorers -- who led Ladue on Tuesday with a combined 27 points (15 for Meyer, 12 for Walker).
Unfortunately, Ladue's new dynamic duo couldn't overcome Notre Dame's red-hot shooting from three-point land, as the Rebels hit eight three-pointers, including four in the third quarter, which is when the visitors took control of the game.
Ladue actually led 25-21 at halftime, with Walker scoring 10 of her points in those first two quarters.
But Notre Dame sharpshooters Taylor Gasperoni and Madeline Ronhausen, who both had 16 points, each hit a three-pointer early in the third quarter that helped spark a 18-8 run that gave the Rebels the lead for good at 39-33.
"I really felt like we did a good job staying on their shooters," Dockery said. "They had a couple of open ones, but for the most part, we really stayed with them. They just hit them. That team can really shoot it."
Notre Dame led by as many as 11 points, following the 4th three of the night by Gasperoni, early in the fourth. But that's when Ladue began to rally, thanks to some deft playmaking by Meyer.
First, she drove into the lane and found teammate Elizabeth Greenberg for a wide-open three-pointer, which the senior knocked down for her first points of the game.
Then after a making a pair of free throws and forcing a jumpball, which gave her team an extra possession, Meyer made two layups and a traditional three-point play to pull Ladue to within 50-49 with 48.3 seconds left in the game.
Unfortunately, that was as close to tying the game as the Rams would get, as Notre Dame's Kristina Eason made four straight free throws in the final 26 seconds to give the Rebels their final edge at 54-49.
"We knew we didn't want to foul (Gasperoni or Ronhausen)," Dockery said. "So we fouled (Eason), who had missed a couple foul shots earlier. But she made them at the end, and we just couldn't overcome some of the mistakes we made."
Ladue is now 5-4 on the season with the winter holiday break looming.
Tuesday's contest was the last one for the Rams, until the day after Christmas, when Ladue will play in the first round of the Ritenour Holiday Tournament at Ritenour High School in Overland.
Ladue is scheduled to play Confluence Academy of St. Louis, in a 1:30 p.m. matchup that will be one of four games played at Ritenour High on December 26.
When Ladue comes back after the break, their first game will be a home game on January 4 against Jennings.
Score by Quarters ........... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 -- Final Score
Notre Dame ................... 13 .. 8 .. 22 . 11 -- 54
Ladue ............................. 10 . 15 . 10 . 14 -- 49
Notre Dame -- Taylor Gasperoni 16, Madeline Ronhausen 16, Sydney Kremer 11, Kristina Eason 8, Grace Fussner 2, Kayla Niethe 1.
Ladue -- Cate Meyer 15, Kaitlynn Walker 12, Katherine DeBoer 7, Nicole McNichols 6, Elizabeth Greenberg 5, Logan Meeks 2, Natalie Grimm 2.