Notre Dame coach Mary Beth McNichol was anxious to see how her team would respond in its Inter-Academic League game Tuesday against Penn Charter after a horrendous shooting performance Saturday in a 40-23 loss to Villa Maria.

The Irish and Quakers are expected to provide the biggest challenge to Germantown Academy's 13-year reign as league champion.

McNichol got what she hoped for against Penn Charter - a good start, but her team struggled in the late going before hanging on for a 59-48 win.

Notre Dame had a 45-29 lead with a little more than two minutes to play in the third quarter when Penn Charter went on a 19-6 run to pull within 51-48 with 3 minutes, 22 seconds to go.

But the Irish (4-1 overall, 2-0 league)) staged a counter run to score the last nine points of the game. Seven came on 7-for-8 shooting at the foul line by Megan McGurk, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and Kristen Carr.

Overall, the Irish were 15 for 20 at the foul line.

McNichol got 36 points from Fitzpatrick (21) and McGurk (15).

"We got a bit frazzled early in the fourth period," said Fitzpatrick, explaining how the 16-point lead slipped away.

"We bounced back [from the Villa loss], and that was important," said McNichol, noting that the Irish shot 6 for 34 against the Hurricanes.

"Today we got huge contributions from Molly Borgese [12 points] and Carr [seven]. We're going to need them this season."

Penn Charter, which entered the game 3-1 overall (0-0 league) under first-year coach Dave Bass, scored the first two points but spent the rest of the afternoon playing catch-up.

"That first quarter hurt us," Bass said. The Quakers found themselves down, 18-11, at the end of the quarter.

Dianna Thomas-Palmer, one of only three seniors on the squad, kept the Quakers in the game for the first half with eight of her game-high 22 points.

"She was tough to handle," Fitzpatrick said. "She's a skilled player, and we had to double her wherever she went. We got a break when she fouled out."

The 6-foot Thomas-Palmer picked up her fifth foul with 3:20 to play.

Bass said her loss hurt, but he saw another issue that hurt his club, too.

"What we needed was the same intensity at the beginning of the game as we had at the end," he said.

The Irish play Neumann-Goretti in a nonleague game Thursday before participating in the Spring-Ford tournament.

Penn Charter takes on Freire Charter of the Public League on Thursday before heading to Naples, Fla., for a holiday tournament.

Penn Charter 11 6 19 12 - 48

Notre Dame 18 14 16 11 - 59

PC: MaryKate O'Brien 12, Ayanna Matthews 8, Danielle Sienko 6, Dianna Thomas-Palmer 22.

ND: Kristen Carr 7, Kathleen Fitzpatrick 21, Megan McGurk 15, Molly Borgese 12, Morgan Jennings 4.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.