Irish ground Eagles
Thirty minutes after the Irish beat Dunlap, 65-52, Friday night Notre Dame senior guard Tyler Les was already thinking bout this Friday, when his team will face conference rival Manual at home.
“We have to get them back (Manual beat ND, 42-39, in overtime at Manual Dec. 11). We need to win those big conference games, especially at home,” Les said. “We’re starting to play a lot better, and we want to finish the season strong.”
Les scored 13 points (six in the fourth quarter) to lead Notre Dame (13-6) to the non-conference win over Dunlap.
He drove to the basket and made layups along with senior guard Nick Rochford whenever Dunlap “clamped down” on junior forward Max Bielfeldt, Notre Dame’s leading scorer.
“Having Max in there helps us spread out our offense,” Les said. “If the defense closes in on him, then we have other options.”
Notre Dame coach Eddie Mathews said he was pleased that his team finished strong after getting off to a slow start (11-10 lead after the first quarter).
“We’ve been working on late-game situations. We want to be in control and get good shots late in the game instead of running around like chickens with our heads cut off,” Mathews said. “We took care of the ball at the end, which was good. In a few of our previous games, we didn’t stick to our game plan at the end. Tonight, we did...
“We’re maturing. If we played that game a few weeks ago, we might not have won it.”
Notre Dame went on 15-0 run at the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter. Dunlap went more than seven minutes without scoring before senior guard Austin Kelly made two free throws with 4:02 left in the second quarter.
Bielfeldt led the Irish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Dunlap coach Rick Schertz commended junior forward Peter Sorenson for sticking with Bielfeldt all night.
“We had a 6’3” guy guarding a very good 6’8” player,” Schertz said. “He (Sorenson) worked his butt off and did a heck of a job.”
Dunlap, which also lost to Limestone on Saturday, fell to 1-13 this season.
Mathews said the Eagles did not look like a 1-13 team.
“I don’t care what their record says,” he said. “That’s a good team. They played really hard and shot the ball better than a lot of teams we’ve seen.”
Schertz said he gets tired of hearing “you’re better than your record” comments.
“I know how hard we are playing. I’m proud of the effort these guys are giving me every night,” he said. “We just need to get some breaks. At some point, we have to start winning some of these games.”
Kelly, who scored seven points against Notre Dame, said the Eagles have not let the 1-13 start get them down.
“You still come out motivated to play your best,” he said. “We left it all out there tonight, but we came up short.”
Brandon Drum hit four three-pointers and scored 17 points for Dunlap.
Drum converted a three-point play to make it a 51-42 game with 4:26 left, but Notre Dame senior Justin Smith answered with a three-point play of his own.
“Was it our best game? No. But, we did what we had to do to win,” Mathews said.
• At halftime, Notre Dame honored the 1980 Bergan boys basketball team, which finished second in the state.
That team had won eight straight games in the State Championship Series, including a last-second, 56-55 win over Sterling Newman in the Super Sectional at Moline. They lost to Luther South of the Private League of Chicago, 56-51, in front of 12,000 fans at assembly Hall in the championship game.
Rudy Keeling, the coach of that team who is now commissioner of the east Coast Atletic Conference, attended the ceremony at halftime Friday, along with several players, managers and assistant coaches.
Players on that team were: Rob Carrino, Paul Kupfert, Scott McCabe, John Ruffin, Rich Amberg, Tom Gilles, Bob Schermer, Pat Thomas, Casey Welch, Steve Wittig and Steve Franks.Jim Carlson was the assistant coach. Mike O'Brien, Tim Sack and Brad Zevnik were team managers. Mike Sullivan was the scorekeeper and Kevin Koehler was the announcer.