PDT Sports Writer
ROSEMOUNT — Aggressive defenses were the theme of Friday’s SOC I contest between Notre Dame and host Clay as the two teams played for the lead in the division.
The two teams combined for 47 turnovers, 28 coming off steals. Despite committing 30 miscues, the Titans maintained its unblemished record Friday with a 43-41 win. The keys for Notre Dame coach Matt Mader and his troops were their ability to limit the points off turnovers (15) and a 35-26 edge in rebounding.
“In the first half, it seemed like we couldn’t hang on to the basketball,” Mader said. “Give our kids credit, give their kids credit, that’s two teams out there that are playing their tails off. We made a couple of adjustments there at halftime that I think helped out our guards a little bit, helped them penetrate and be able to see the floor and kick it a little bit for some decent shots in the second half.”
Trevon Turner’s 3-pointer midway through the opening period not only gave the Titans a 9-7 lead, it also sparked an 11-0 run to end the quarter.
The big key that led up to the spurt was the role of Daniel Ogg on the glass. The senior pulled down five of his game-high 14 rebounds in the opening stanza.
“That’s Daniel, that’s a senior, he’s a three-year starter,” Mader said, “he’s been in our program for four years and Daniel has continued to improve each and every game. He’s getting more confident on the offensive end.”
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to recover as they forced 11 Notre Dame turnovers in the second quarter, including five thefts. The eight points off turnovers by Clay shrunk its deficit to 23-19 at the half.
“We got a little bit of a run but we just couldn’t string those baskets together to build a big enough of a lead,” Mader said.
Panthers coach Adam Betten was pleased with how his team turned up the pressure with their 1-3-1 defense.
“The way our team played defensively, forcing those turnovers and getting there, attacking the basket, we’ve got to finish in the end,” Betten said.
After a 13-13 third quarter, Clay started the fourth with a 5-1 run and evened the game at 37-37 with 3:18 remaining. Coming out of the timeout, C.J. Smith’s basket gave the Titans the last lead of the game, which doubled when Smith connected with Will Toleman for a field goal.
Adam Cooper, who was playing in his first game against his former teammates, cut the deficit to 41-39 with 10.4 to go. The game ended on a pair of free throws by Will Haney and a putback buzzer-beater for the Panthers by Cole Gilliland.
“We’ve got rugged kids that are just gritty, that grinded it out,” Mader said. “It wasn’t pretty but I’m very proud of our performance, for us to hang on there and execute down the stretch, I’m really proud of them.”
Entering the locker room with eight points, Clay senior Eldin Sarajlic became more noticeable in the second 16 minutes and finished with a game-high 17 points on 7-of-20 shooting. He was also two rebounds shy of a double-double.
“He’s used to guys hanging onto him,” Betten said of Sarajlic. “He’s been the rock for us all year. He stepped up and he’s a team player.”
However, the rest of the team was 10-of-32 from the floor.
“It felt like there a lid was on the basket at some times,” Betten said. “We get in there that close, we’ve got to finish. One of the big things for us this year has been field goal percentage in the paint, we’ve got to get better at that.”
Turner was 3-of-8 from the field to lead Notre Dame with 11 points.
The Titans have a short turnaround as they entertain East in a Saturday night affair. The two teams were originally scheduled to play Dec. 6 but weather forced the postponement.
An SOC I home contest Tuesday with New Boston is next on the Panthers’ itinerary.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Notre Dame 17 6 13 7 — 43
Clay 7 12 13 9 — 41
Notre Dame — Kayser 1-0-2, Haney 2-2-7, Toleman 3-1-7, Turner 3-2-11, C. Smith 4-0-8, Ogg 3-2-8, Totals 16-7-43.
Clay — Cooper 3-0-6, A. Phipps 1-0-2, C. Phipps 1-0-3, Gilliland 1-0-2, Sarajlic 7-3-17, Schmidt 2-1-5, Hinze 2-2-6, Totals 17-6-41.
3-Point Goals — Notre Dame 4 (Turner 3, Haney); Clay 1 (C. Phipps).
Records — Notre Dame 8-0 (4-0); Clay 5-5 (3-2).