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WCAC girls’ final had Notre Dame-UConn connection

Seeing the coverage from the Big East women’s tournament championship between No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Connecticut on Tuesday night — a 61-59 victory for Notre Dame, its seventh win in the past eight games against the Huskies — reminded me that the WCAC girls’ final last week also had a bit of Irish-U-Conn. flavor to it.

St. John’s senior guard Lindsay Allen, the lone McDonald’s All-American from the Washington area this season, has signed with Notre Dame. And Good Counsel graduate Kaili McLaren, a 2006 All-Met and former McDonald’s All-American who played on two unbeaten teams at U-Conn., was on the team bench for her high school’s games late in the season after coming home from a pro stint in Israel to tend to an injury.

McLaren’s late-season presence lifted the Good Counsel players, although not quite enough to get them past Allen and St. John’s in the WCAC championship.

“When she walked through the door, everyone sprinted over to her,” Good Counsel senior forward Amanda Fioravanti said of McLaren’s return. “In the beginning of October, we all had a dinner for her before she left and it was emotional and everyone was crying. She’s an inspiration to all of us, to have her go to Good Counsel and then to Connecticut and play overseas.

“Being there for us for the rest of the season definitely helped us. Her support for us is just unbelievable. She knows exactly how we’re feeling. She’s been in the footsteps of us already. If you’re down, she knows exactly what to say.”

When the Bishop Walsh Girls Invitational Tournament organizers found out that McLaren, who also has played professionally in Greece, was back with the Falcons, they asked her to speak at a tournament function. (They also could have drafted her to sing the national anthem).

McLaren made several starts at U-Conn. but mostly came off the bench during her career there. The Huskies went 146-6 during that time, with back-to-back 39-0 seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

“She really wanted to be around the girls,” Good Counsel Coach Tom Splaine said. “She thought this was a special group of kids and she loved being with them. She’s been a mentor to Amanda and a number of them. I always wanted any program I was in for kids like that, who worked hard at their craft, to be able to come back and be role models for the girls.”

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