2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 12/29/2016 11:28 PM

Stritzel’s hard-headed approach serves Notre Dame well

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By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent

Notre Dame's Matt Stritzel took the 'hardwood' at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic a bit too literally Thursday night.

The senior guard hit the floor more than a couple of times after being fouled on hard drives to the basket, but the bumps and bruises were surely worth it after the final score was posted.

Stritzel's always steady and sometimes spectacular play -- he led the Dons with 22 points -- helped Notre Dame defeat Waukegan 62-55 in the tournament semifinals.

"He (Stritzel) was great today," said Dons coach Tom Les. "He made some plays. He's been consistent for us all year."

The most glaring statistic in the game was the discrepancy from the 3-point line.

Notre Dame was an efficient 2-of-5 from 3-point range, while Waukegan launched 27 3-pointers, making only 7.

Many of the Waukegan attempts were from very long range.

"We were in a 3-2 zone," said Stritzel, "and we knew they were going to hit some shots. We were contesting the hard shots, but when they put them up from 35 feet, we were just letting them take 'em."

Notre Dame led by 5 at the half, then opened up a double-digit lead in the third quarter behind 7 points apiece in the period from Stritzel and Chris Heinichen.

But Waukegan rallied in the fourth behind the tough inside play of DeShawn Davidson (7 points, 11 rebounds) and Bryant Brown (12 points, 8 boards).

"They (Waukegan) are a good, well-coached team," said Les. "We knew they weren't going to go away. They've got some young players and they're only going to get better and better."

The Bulldogs crept to within 47-45 midway through the final quarter behind a 3 from JaDyn Brown (14 points), but then Notre Dame went on a 10-point run, capped by a Stritzel 3-point play.

Waukegan got close again late, trailing only by 5, but the Dons put the game away behind the free throw shooting of Jeameril Wilson (17 points) and Heinichen.

Notre Dame (11-2) now gets to defend their Hardwood title Friday against Fremd, which defeated Libertyville Thursday. But Les says his team isn't focused on a repeat.

"We're not thinking about last year," said Les. "We're just trying to get better every day."

"Fremd is a well-coached team, and they already got us once this year (a Vikings win), so it'll be a good rematch for us."

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