A highly anticipated contest between St.Viator and Notre Dame at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates on Saturday didn't have the finish Lion fans were hoping for.
The Dons bolted out of the gate, running up a 14-2 lead with 2:45 left in the first quarter and forcing St.Viator to play catch-up all night in an East Suburban Catholic Conference matchup that tipped off three games in the National Guard High School Hoops Showdown.
Notre Dame never trailed and tamed the Lions 64-48. Notre Dame stays a game back of the lead in the conference race at 5-1 (and 18-2 overall), while the Lions fell to 14-5 and 4-2.
"I thought that in spurts we really played good team defense," said Notre Dame coach Tom Les. "They are a lot like us and match up up very well. The difference is that our guys drove the lane, and they had someone to kick the ball out to for shots. That opened up the lane."
"They did a great job switching defenses and never let us get into our sets," said St. Viator coach Mike Howland. "The ball seemed to stay on one side of the floor. So credit them with their defense and bad execution on us."
The Dons didn't have that problem as Matt Mooney (20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) and point guard Jake Maestrani scored 5 points each in the initial run.
"We pride ourselves with defense," said Mooney. "They had a big win last night (against Marian Catholic) and playing back-to-back can get your legs tired. We got a lot of help from our defense. It helped us get off to a fast start."
St. Viator fought back at the half to get within 7 points at 28-21 but could get no closer. Kevin Hammarlund (11 points) and Ore Arogundade (13 points) each scored 5 points in the quarter.
Mooney scored 7 points and Maestrani 5 to help the Dons put together an 11-2 run to open a 39-23 lead with 3:45 left in the third quarter. St.Viator could not threaten after that run.
"Our two losses where we had the lead (Morgan Park and Benet) proved to us that we cannot let teams back into games," said Mooney.
The Lions' Mark Falatico broke into double figures with 10 of his 12 points in the second half. Notre Dame's Eddie Serrano scored 10 points and had 7 rebounds. Duante Stephens added 8 points.
"We still look at the conference race that we have an outside shot," added Howland. "We've got Benet next week, and they are good. If we're going to have to play the role of spoiler, so be it. By March we will be battle-tested."