Notre Dame stuns Calvin-less St. Viator
Funny thing about the 3-point shot.
When a team is facing a big deficit and the 3s aren't falling, it can seem like a long road back.
But when they are, you can make up some ground in a big hurry and St. Viator found that out the hard way Friday night at Cahill Gymnasium in Arlington Heights.
The Lions built a double-digit halftime lead against Notre Dame but fell victim to a second-half shooting onslaught by the Dons, who won 54-52 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference matchup.
Senior captain Jeremiah Hernandez scored a game-high 24 points for Viator but the Lions had to play without co-captain Treyvon Calvin, who broke his hand at practice Thursday and after the game said he'll miss "about six weeks."
"It (the loss of Calvin) is definitely a big blow but we've just got to have everybody getting their new roles in practice," said Hernandez. "It's hard when you have a game plan and then it goes down the drain because you have an injury, but it's next man up and we've just got to get comfortable in our roles."
Even Notre Dame coach Kevin Clancy said he had to make adjustments once he found out Calvin would not be in the starting lineup.
"They're in a tough situation," said Clancy of the Lions. "We didn't even know he (Calvin) would be out until we walked in the gym, so our prep got thrown for a little bit of a loop."
Viator played terrific defense in the first quarter, and Hernandez scored 11 in the opening period to stake his team to an early lead. The Lions kept the pressure on in the second quarter and at one point led 27-12.
"We came out really well in the first half," said Viator junior guard Connor Kochera, who finished with 12 points." It starts on defense and that set the tone for our offense. In the second half our defense kind of fell apart and our offense went along with it."
Notre Dame missed its first nine 3-point attempts, but made 5 consecutive 3s during a stretch in the third quarter; and when Dons junior Joey Tianen hit the sixth Notre Dame 3 of the period late the visitors trailed only by 7.
"Our intensity wasn't there," added Kochera. "We were giving them the middle a lot, that allowed them to get open threes, and that just domino-effected down."
The Notre Dame full-court press gave Viator fits in the final stanza and the Dons steadily advanced, taking a 5-point lead with 17 seconds remaining.
Then Kochera brought Viator to within 2 points when he buried a 3, and the Lions had one more chance with 4.3 ticks left when Notre Dame missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
But Viator could advance the ball only to just beyond half court, where a Hernandez 3-point attempt for the win -- pressured by a pair of Dons -- fell heartbreakingly short.
"We kind of got turned there (in the last few seconds) and had to get a longer shot than we would have liked," said Kochera.
"It was good defense by Notre Dame," added Hernandez. "Just not enough time to get off a good shot."
Anthony Sayles led the Dons with 20 points.
"I thought we finished the second quarter strong, so I felt like we had a little momentum going into the second half," said Clancy. "Even though the deficit was 15, we talked about being more aggressive and playing with more confidence and I think we did that in the second half."
Michael Huene and Michael Campagna scored 5 points apiece for Viator.
"We got complacent," said Hernandez. "We thought the game was over. We didn't come out in the second half with the same energy that we did in the first half."