Even though the St. Viator boys basketball team took one on the chin Friday night against Notre Dame at Cahill gymnasium, the Lions are still in the fight in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
"We're still in a good spot in the conference," said Lions coach Quin Hayes. "There's a long way to go and the players need to keep their heads up."
The Lions lost to the Dons 53-38 to see their unbeaten streak in the ESCC go by the wayside. St. Viator dropped to 7-12 and 4-1. The Dons won their 18th game of the season against 5 losses. Their conference record stands at 3-2.
"I'm proud of the way the players competed tonight," said Hayes. "They gave me everything they got."
The Dons led from start to finish but could not put the Lions away until early in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame led 16-8 at the end of the first quarter and 24-14 at the break.
Matt Stritzel (17 points) and Jeameril Wilson (13 points, 5 rebounds) helped keep the Dons ahead in the fourth quarter, stretching the lead to 40-24 with 2:38 left in the quarter.
The Lions were matching the Dons for most of the quarter with the help of Peter Lambesis, who scored all three of his baskets on tip-ins during the quarter.
Notre Dame went cold the last 2:38 of the quarter and St. Viator revved it up with a 8-0 run to finish the quarter trailing 40-32. J.R. Cison, who led St. Viator with 12 points, scored 4 in the run.
Jeremiah Hernandez scored with 7:40 left in the game to cut the lead to 40-34.
Stritzel scored two baskets and Wilson had one, to go with a free throw by Dusan Mahorcic, for a 7-0 run to open a 47-34 lead with 5:48 left.
"We got a little frantic in the third quarter when they made the run," said Stritzel. "When they cut it to 6, we had to pick up the pace. When we had the run it helped us control the tempo. The last five games we've been playing better on both offense and defense. The defense is making the plays and the offense is picking up because of it."
St. Viator's last gasp was back-to-back baskets by Hernandez and Cison to cut it to 47-38 with 4:19 left. The Lions were shut out the rest of the game.
"We used a lot of energy to get back in the game and we got gassed late," said Hayes.
"We need to keep our composure when the shots don't fall," said St. Viator senior center Addison Lubert. "Notre Dame executed well and at times it seemed that they couldn't miss. We've played a lot of tough teams this year, and to be successful this last part of the season, we have to emulate them. We're still in the race -- but two or three conference loses and you're out of the race."
Lubert played well, scoring 8 points and pulling down 8 rebounds.
"St. Viator was well prepared for us," said Notre Dame coach Tom Les. "We have some good senior leadership in Stritzel, Wilson, and Heinichen. They made some good plays for us when we needed it. We're at 3-2 in the conference and it keeps us in the race."
The Lions were 0-for-10 from the 3-point range.
The Lions may have lost guard Marc Clark for the rest of the season after an injury suffered last Friday in the win at Joliet Catholic.