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Notre Dame's Kate Ford is closing in on the all-time scoring record for the Lady Irish. The senior guard scored 81 points in a three-game span this season. / Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter

When Kate Ford arrived at Notre Dame High School, she had no idea that four years later she would have a chance to make Lady Irish history.

Ford stands at 1,547 career points going into Tuesday's game with Collegedale Academy and is 109 points away from tying the program record set by Alicia Ransom, whose jersey number was retired last Friday.

"I never thought breaking a record like this would be possible," said Ford, who in middle school was focused primarily on defense. "Scoring was not my game. So when I came here from Cleveland and it became a part of my game, it kind of blew my mind. I didn't know I had that in me."

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Notre Dame's Kate Ford is closing in on the career scoring record for the Lady Irish. The senior guard scored 104 points in a four-game span this season. / Staff file photo by Robin Rudd

Toughness is something else that's in her.

In the nonregion game against Baylor last Friday, she caught an arm to the face, which broke her nose. But she checked back into the game soon after and considers the injury to be "not even a minor setback" as she and the Lady Irish (13-6) look to build toward a lengthy postseason run in Division II-A.

Instead of using 25 play calls like last year, Notre Dame players have been given free rein to play off and through one another. The strategy was one coach Jason Hill derived after sitting down with football coach Charles Fant, who had watched the outstanding Cleveland boys' basketball team run the same style of read-and-react offense.

So far the results have been impressive as the Lady Irish have scored more than 60 points on seven occasions after reaching that level seven times over the previous three seasons.

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Notre Dame senior Averie Sheppard guards Baylor's Cadashia Collins during the Best of Preps tournament at Chattanooga State on Jan. 2. Sheppard hit the game-winning 3-pointer to earn the program's first district championship two years ago. / Staff file photo by Patrick MacCoon

"Kate has become more of a leader on the court with our new style of offense," Hill said. "Because I am not calling every set down the court, as things unravel throughout the game I see her talking more. They are talking about different things they could have done, they are learning from mistakes and talking about things that are working well during the game.

"I see them becoming coaches on the court, which I think is a really powerful tool to have instead of waiting for the sideline to control your every move. I see more vocal leadership out of her more than ever, because they are learning together."

Ford can put the points up in a hurry with her outside touch or taking her defender off the dribble to the hoop. She has scored 28 points or more seven times in her career, including a career-high 33 this season in a four-game span in which she totaled 104.

She also has drawn 15 charges and has provided stellar ball distribution.

"Every time I step on the floor I try to bring my all," Ford said. "I try to get after it whether it's rebounding, shooting or stepping up and taking a charge. I want to have an impact on the game. I love to get my teammates going, too."

Two years after winning the program's first-ever district championship, the Lady Irish want to relive that moment in their home gym, where the district and region tournaments will be held.

Ford is not their only weapon on the court, as senior teammates Jolie McGann, Averie Sheppard and Lauren Bird provide a veteran boost to an athletic guard-oriented lineup. McGann, a Signal Mountain transfer, is considered to be the team's most versatile defender. Sheppard is a natural shooter who hit the game-winning 3-pointer assisted by Ford to beat Chattanooga Christian for a district championship.

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Notre Dame senior Jolie McGann has provided tough defense in her first year with the program. / Staff file photo by Patrick MacCoon

While Ford closes in on the Notre Dame scoring record, everything she and her teammates do from here on out is geared toward making a statement run in the postseason.

"Sticking together and having each other's backs all the time is a key to us going far," Ford said. "I want to make it to the state tournament, and to do so we have to keep building our chemistry on the floor together. We want to be remembered by what we do in the postseason."

With a team motto of "One" with the "O" being a shamrock, a group that has changed its approach seems ready to take things a step further.

"Our girls are playing as one, playing for one another and reaching for No. 1," Hill said.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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