||More Sports||Sign up||School Finder|
Notre Dame had to wait an extra day due to a winter storm for its matchup with Von Steuben. The Dons’ eagerness showed as they jumped out to a 15-point lead early and held on for a comfortable 67-42 victory over the Panthers in Wednesday night’s 4A Glenbrook South Regional semifinal contest.
The second-seeded Dons wasted no time building a comfortable lead over the Panthers, cruising to a 19-4 margin behind eight first-quarter points from Duante Stephens. The junior was able to overcome a couple of traveling violations on fast breaks early in the game, as well as a pair of missed free throws in the first quarter, to spur Notre Dame to an early lead.
No. 15 seed Von Steuben crept back into the game toward the end of the second quarter, drawing within 30-19, but Notre Dame responded with slick passing around the perimeter to set up a corner three-pointer from Jake Maestranzi. The senior guard capped off the half with another three-pointer from five-feet behind the arc to give the Dons a 36-19 halftime lead.
Notre Dame cemented its early lead with a strong start to the second half. Maestranzi found senior guard Justin Halloran for an open three-pointer just two minutes into the third quarter to give the Dons a 41-21 lead. Stephens followed with a powerful offensive rebound on the Dons’ next possession and sunk a pair of free throws. Maestranzi, meanwhile, continued to set up easy baskets for his teammates, feeding senior guard Matt Mooney for a layup right as he finished his cut with a minute remaining in the third quarter. A floater by Maestranzi gave Notre Dame a 58-30 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Yet, while Maestranzi put the bow on top, Stephens provided Notre Dame fans the gift of an opening-round victory with his gritty play early. After missing his first two from the charity stripe, he hit his next eight.
“He’s so athletic and he’s so good around the basket,” Notre Dame coach Tom Les said. “He’s a tough, tough match for anybody.”