2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 1/7/2017 11:16 PM

Notre Dame turns back Grant's challenge

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By Patricia Babcock

A win is a win.

Unless it's a win of the moral persuasion, which isn't exactly a true win.

Not that they're ungrateful, but the Grant Bulldogs are done with moral victories. They've got a couple of them so far this season.

Grant, which won just three games two seasons ago with many of the same players who are starters now, have taken on some Chicago area heavyweights on its nonconference schedule this season.

And the Bulldogs have had two of those heavyweights, North Lawndale and Notre Dame, on the ropes. But instead of actual victories, Grant has had to settle for moral victories, the satisfaction of playing both teams extremely competitively, and making a statement of just how far the program has come over the last few seasons.

The most recent example of that came Saturday night against visiting Notre Dame. Grant had a nine-point lead at the end of the first quarter, and a two-point lead late in the third quarter.

But the Bulldogs couldn't seal the deal and Notre Dame, which boasts four players who are college prospects, pulled out a 67-63 victory.

"I'd like to think that we are past that point (of moral victories)," Grant coach Wayne Bosworth said. "We almost had Lawndale, and we had these guys on the ropes, too. But until we can finish it…

"We're just right there. We're close. Our guys battled hard. I'm proud of them. But we've got to keep working."

Notre Dame, which improves to 12-4, broke open a tie game early in the fourth quarter by going on a 11-1 run. The lead for Notre Dame was 10 points with about a minute to play.

But Grant (6-7) even clawed back from that, thanks to a couple of 3-pointers from Kyle Dupree and 3 consecutive free throws by Logan Lewis. The Bulldogs were down by just 2 points with 7.9 seconds remaining.

But free throws in the final seconds by Notre Dame's Matt Stritzel finally closed the door on Grant.

Stritzel finished with a team-high 21 points. Jeameril Wilson added 20 points for the Dons.

"We stayed composed and hit our free throws," said the 6-foot-6 Wilson, a straight-A student who is getting Ivy League looks. "When they cut it to 2 points at the end, I was like, 'Oh man! Oh man!' I remember it was an 8- or 10-point lead and a few seconds later, it was a 2-point lead. I was just hoping the clock would run out."

Grant got double-figures from three players, including Mike Huff, who recently earned a starting spot. The junior guard was a big reason the Bulldogs got off to such a great start. He finished with 21 points and scored 12 points in the first quarter, on 4 three-pointers. Huff wound up with 5 three-pointers.

John Kerr added 15 points and Ben Kusiak had 10 points for Grant.

"We're always excited to play teams like this," Huff said. "We just want to show everyone what we can do and how good we really are and how we can compete against top 20 teams.

"I think they were surprised that we came out this strong. For me, I just want to come out strong and show everyone I can shoot."

Notre Dame sees strong performances from many teams. As one of the top-ranked teams in the area, Notre Dame gets most opponents' best shots.

"We get that a lot," Notre Dame coach Tom Les said. "When we scheduled this game, I wasn't expecting this (level of competition). This is a very well-coached and talented (Grant) team, a very good basketball team. And they executed very well at the end of the game."

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