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Notre Dame's Matt Mooney tries to push past St. Charles North's Quinten Payne. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Notre Dame’s Justin Halloran was ice cool and calm.
“I’m very confident and comfortable shooting free throws, and I’d been in this situation before,” Halloran said.
The senior swingman drilled three free throws with 10.1 seconds left that proved the difference as the No. 10 Dons fought off an eight-point fourth quarter deficit to stun St. Charles North 73-72 in the Conference Challenge Classic Sunday at Gordon Tech.
St. Charles North had a final chance to win but star guard Quinten Payne, who was superb with 25 points and nine rebounds, was denied on a baseline jumper. A North Stars’ putback was ruled to come after the final horn.
Halloran’s free throws proved the game-winner. Matt Mooney was the facilitator of the comeback. He scored 10 of his career-high 35 points in the fourth quarter to help the Dons (22-5) overcome the tenacious North Stars’ team who led virtually the entire game.
“I’ve always liked playing at this gym,” Mooney said. “We used to practice AAU here, and it’s a great atmosphere for shooting.” said Mooney, who set a previous career-high in the Dons’ tough loss to Marian Catholic Friday night.
“Also, my point guards, Scooter [Donte Stephenson] and Jake Maestranzi, did a great job of looking for me and finding me,” Mooney said.
Halloran finished with 10 points. The final one-point differential was the Dons’ only lead of the second half. “We started guarding them better in the second half and forcing their guards [into] mistakes,” Halloran said.
Maestranzi scored 12 points, the most crucial a three-pointer from the right wing that narrowed his team’s deficit to 71-69 with 1:02 to play. Moments earlier, Payne, a Loyola recruit, drove down the middle and threw down a monster dunk for a 71-66 North Stars’ advantage.
St. Charles North (16-9) missed three out of four free throws in the final 20 seconds. “They did a good job of speeding us up,” St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said. “We made some mistakes, had some turnovers and we also missed some free throws. We have to do a better job of learning how to play with a lead in the fourth quarter.”
With his team down 72-70, Halloran launched his three-point attempt from the left baseline. Poulin vigorously disputed the foul call, as well as the subsequent no-call as Payne absorbed contact on final attempt.
Stephenson added six points for the Dons.
Sophomore guard Jake Ludwig and senior guard Justin Stanko contributed 13 points apiece for the North Stars.
“It’s very tough and frustrating to lose a game like that, especially when we felt like we were the better team for most of the game,” Payne said. “This is the reason we played in the game, and it’s something we’ll learn from. We could see them again [in the state tournament], and we’ll get another chance.’’