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Notre Dame (0) Donte Stephenson brings the ball up while guarded by St Pat's (12) Nicholas Coleman in first half aciton. Notre Dame plays St. Patrick in a boys varsity basketball game on Friday at St. Patrick|Photo for Pioneer Press~Judy Fidkowski
Notre Dame was in big trouble against arch-rival St. Patrick on Friday night.
The No. 11 Dons were on the road facing a five-point fourth quarter deficit and their two best players were having off nights. Junior Duante Stephens and senior Matt Mooney would combine to shoot 3-for-17 in the game.
But the two smallest players on the team rode to the rescue for Notre Dame as 5-10 senior Donte Stephenson and 5-7 senior Jake Maestranzi combined for 18 second-half points to guide the Dons to a 54-51 East Suburban Catholic win.
“We don’t worry about height,” said Maestranzi who scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter. “It’s all about heart. That’s what me and Donte focus on. We play bigger.”
The Shamrocks led 27-25 at halftime and 40-35 after three quarters. But the turning point came with St. Pat’s (11-6, 2-2) holding a 40-36 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
The Shamrocks got a steal at half court and Keith Langston went up for a breakaway dunk. But the senior guard slipped and Notre Dame (16-2, 3-1) quickly got it down the floor with Maestranzi burying a three-pointer. It was part of an 8-0 run that gave the Dons the lead for good. Maestranzi also buried another three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame led 52-46 after Maestranzi sunk a pair of free throws with 33.5 seconds to play.
St. Pat’s wouldn’t go away however. A bucket by Royale Ewing (14 points) with 25.3 left and a trey by Nicholas Coleman with 10.3 remaining cut the deficit to 52-51. But Maestranzi buried both free throws after getting fouled with 9.5 seconds on the clock and a last-second three by Ewing was off the mark.
“Me and Jake are undersized and we don’t let our size get the best of us,” said Stephenson, who had a team-high 14 points. “We’re both hard to stop going to the basket. Big guys are going to try and block our shots every time so pump fake and then put it in.”
Elijah Watson led the Shamrocks with 15 points while Eddie Serrano contributed 11 for the Dons.
St. Patrick was done in partly by shooting 14-for-26 from the free-throw line. They were 4-for-8 in the final quarter.
“We lost the game by missing those free throws,” Ewing said. “If we would have made those free throws, I think we would have got the win. We played great defense throughout the whole game. That’s what the coaches preached. The free throws just didn’t go down.”