Fairmont’s Westbeld commits to Notre Dame

Kathryn Westbeld, half of the “Twin Towers” combo that played a major factor in Fairmont High School winning a girls state basketball championship last season, verbally committed to the University of Notre Dame on Monday.

A nationally recruited 6-foot-2 frontliner, Westbeld chose the Irish over national powers Connecticut, Duke and Ohio State. Her senior teammate Makayla Waterman, also 6-2 and the other “Tower,” committed to OSU in August. With several other high-profile recruits also committed, it was thought Westbeld might also be Buckeyes bound.

ND lost in the 2011 and ’12 NCAA national championship games. The Irish were beaten by 2013 champ UConn in the national semifinals. She’ll become the first area player at Notre Dame since Megan Duffey of Chaminade Julienne (2002-06).

Westbeld is the No. 4-ranked forward prospect in the nation, according to a consensus of scouting services. She also is No. 21 overall in the Class of 2014 by ESPN Hoopgurlz. She chose ND over Connecticut, Ohio State and Duke.

The early period for signing in basketball is Nov. 13-20.

“There was a lot of pressure there,” Westbeld said. “It was a tough decision. I know that I’ll always be a Buckeye fan. Everyone was talking about how it wasn’t a four-year decision, but a 40-year decision. Academics were a huge part (of her decision).”

Physical players and rugged defenders, Westbeld and Waterman will be four-year starters. Westbeld had a breakout season as a junior, which corresponded with Waterman’s recovery of a knee injury the season before. Westbeld posted team highs in points (14.5), rebounds (9.7), blocks (1.7) and added 2.4 assists per game.

She also proved to be a great finisher, hitting 169 of 255 shots (66.3 percent). She also tallied a season-high 26 points twice.

The Firebirds (27-1) defeated nemesis Twinsburg 52-48 to win the Division I state title, their first. Fairmont lost to Twinsburg in each of the previous two D-I state title games.

Since last season Tim Cogan resigned at Fairmont to become the boys varsity coach at Carroll. Fairmont grad Lacy Romine was named to replace Cogan. Also, 2013 Fairmont grad Chelsea Welch, another four-year starter, is playing at Pittsburgh.

The girls first day of preseason basketball practice is Friday. The early signing period is from Nov. 13-20.

“We have really high expectations,” Westbeld said. “It’s not going to be easy defending our state championship but we can definitely get it done again. We have a lot to look forward to.”

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