PDT Sports Writer
ATHENS — It’s hard to qualify when the biggest play of the year takes place for a particular team, but South Webster’s may have come Tuesday night.
Senior Nick Norman banked in a 3-pointer to close a rough third quarter for the Jeeps and put them on track as they defeated Notre Dame 51-39 Tuesday night in a Division IV Regional Semifinal at Ohio Unversity’s Convocation Center. The victory pushes South Webster to its first regional final since 2006 with Lancaster Fairfield Christian, which defeated Danville 61-48 Tuesday night at Ohio Dominican University, as Friday’s opponent. The site, which was originally planned for ODU, will be determined Wednesday.
“That shot may have been the biggest shot of our season, just as far as getting momentum back in our favor,” Jeeps coach Steven Ater said. “That got the crowd behind us, it settled down our kids after a rough third quarter and give Notre Dame credit, they didn’t quit, they wouldn’t go away.”
Although South Webster never trailed after taking a 9-0 lead to start the game, the Titans — who were held to eight first half points on 3-of-24 shooting from the field and 0-for-9 from beyond the arc — shrunk the Jeeps lead to 29-24 with more than a minute remaining in the third. Notre Dame forced eight turnovers in the quarter, which led to 10 points off the South Webster miscues.
“You’ve got to play 32 minutes,” Titans coach Matt Mader said. “We talked to the kids at halftime and defensively, we were pretty happy with how we we played.
“…We settled for too many jumpers (in the first half) and as a result, we made three shots in the first half and probably should have been down by 30. But we’re only down 15 and we told the kids we’re either going to get blown out or we’re going to claw back into this thing.”
With time winding down and the pressure of a trap starting to become more stressful, Norman threw up a prayer that banked off the top portion of the inner square and fell through the net as the horn went off.
“I think that was a huge blow but again, I loved the character and the fight of our kids,” Mader said.
The fourth quarter went to the hands of a pair of seniors, Seth Goddard and J.P. Kayser. Goddard scored the Jeeps’ first seven points of the frame while Kayser countered with a pair of triples to make it a 41-33 with more than half the quarter to go.
“(Seth’s) got the green light and when he’s feeling it like that, he’s just confident, he’s just going to go and make shots,” Ater said. “He finally started to find some breathing room in their trap in the half-court so it allowed him to get behind it and get some shots up.”
Both teams would go on 4-0 runs before South Webster closed the game on the free throw line by shooting 8-of-12 from the charity stripe.
Levi Cook led all scorers with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Goddard added 15 and Jensen Dyer grabbed 10 rebounds for the Jeeps, who won the rebounding battle 39-31 overall and 12-6 offensively. Ater said rebounding was stressed before playing.
“We watched them play (Reedsville) Eastern and how they hurt them on the glass,” Ater said. “They’re so athletic and so strong and our kids did a pretty good job of boxing out.”
Kayser finished his high school career with 16 points while classmate Kevin Lewis added 11.
“I don’t know if we were tight or whatever the case was but we were a different team in the second half,” Mader said. “The guys played more relaxed and played more like Notre Dame basketball.”
The duo, along with Michael Mader and Jacob Milani close out one of the most decorated careers in Notre Dame history that includes an SOC I title, the school’s first district title in 40 years and 40 wins in the past two seasons.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com.
South Webster 11 12 9 19 — 51
Notre Dame 4 4 16 15 — 39
South Webster — Cook 5-11-21, Dyer 1-2-4, Salisbury 3-2-8, Goddard 5-2-15, Norman 1-1-3, Totals 15-17-51.
Notre Dame — Lewis 4-0-11, JP Kayser 6-2-16, Cooper 0-2-2, Mader 2-2-6, Ogg 2-0-4, Totals 14-6-39.
3-Point Goals — South Webster 4 (Goddard 3, Norman); Notre Dame 5 (Lewis 3, JP Kayser 2).
Records — South Webster 18-7; Notre Dame 21-4.