PDT Sports Writer
ATHENS — Not a third meeting with No. 3 East nor a broken down bus could stop No. 1 Notre Dame from history Saturday night.
The Titans were able to survive a late scoring drought and leave Ohio University’s Convocation Center with a 49-46 victory, giving Notre Dame a Division IV Southeast District Championship. It is only the second in school history and first since 1973.
For Titans coach Matt Mader, the feeling is humbling.
“We knew that East was going to come in here this third time and fight us and sure enough, all of the kids played their hearts out,” Mader said. “Everybody left it out there on the floor. It’s unfortunate that someone has to lose a game like that.”
The game witnessed 14 lead changes, nine in the first half, with one tie. The final lead change came when Adam Cooper finished off his own personal 6-0 run with under a minute to give Notre Dame a 47-46 lead.
“How big has he been?” Mader said. “He’s the microwave, he comes in and makes things happen.”
The Titans were at one point during the latter stages of the fourth quarter mired in an 0-for-9 slump from the floor. What helped their cause before Cooper started his run was the fact that the Tartans were up 46-41 with under three minutes to go.
“I thought it was a game of runs, back-and-forth, they’d make a run and we’d make a run,” East coach Adam Bailey said. “We had a five-point lead with two-and-a-half minutes to go and we wanted to take some time off the clock. We didn’t really do that, we rushed a couple of shots but even the shots that we rushed, they were good shots.”
When Cooper made his final basket, Notre Dame had been called for only three team fouls in the second half. It was a far cry from the first half where the Titans had three players in foul trouble with two fouls each.
“It was big for us and it’s been like that all year for us,” Mader said. “Our style is going to dictate more fouls and our aggressiveness.”
With Notre Dame in the position to use up clock, the Titans did so by fouling. With the final inbounds at midcourt and 2.4 seconds remaining, East put the ball in the hands of senior guard Justin Crager. His 3-point attempt at the horn fell short, sealing the game.
“You’re at a point in the game where you have a kid like Justin, a player like him and you want the ball to go through him,” Bailey said. “It just worked out that way.
“He’s a senior that wanted the ball at the end of the game and he was going to find a way to get the ball.”
Crager led the Tartans with 17 points in his swan song. J.P. Kayser led all scorers with 24 points in the victory.
Notre Dame will take on South Webster, which defeated Leesburg Fairfield 72-57, Tuesday night in a Division IV Regional Semifinal at The Convo. The game will guarantee a team from Scioto County will be play in Friday’s regional final at Ohio Dominican University.
“Webster presents a lot of problems, they play in that upper division (of the Southern Ohio Conference) and night in, night out, they’re playing against great competition,” Mader said.
Bailey will lose Crager, Headon Russell, Dakota Walker and Patrick Bias to graduation.
“This is the first year that I’ll coach without them,” Bailey said.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com.
East 12 15 10 9 — 46
Notre Dame 14 12 10 13 — 49
East — Crager 6-3-17, Siebert 2-0-5, Russell 3-0-8, Bradford 4-0-8, Bias 4-0-8, Totals 19-3-46.
Notre Dame —Lewis 1-0-3, Haney 1-0-3, JP Kayser 8-4-24, Cooper 4-1-9, Mader 0-2-2, Ogg 4-0-8, Totals 18-7-49.
3-Point Goals — East 5 (Crager 2, Russell 2, Siebert); Notre Dame 6 (JP Kayser 4, Lewis, Haney).
Records — East 17-8; Notre Dame 21-3.