NOTE: Apologies for not getting this story posted sooner. Since the end of the game last night until tonight, another news story has been our priority.
In the midst of the ruckus in a near-capacity Stan Sherman Gymnasium at Elba Central School on Wednesday night, the Lancers and Fighting Irish put on quite a basketball show.
Passes zipped around the keys, bodies slammed under the boards and fast breaks were launched in transition with the swiftness of an executioner's sword.
In the end, Elba, having spent their all on the hardwood, left the court disappointed, as Notre Dame scored 61 points to their 53.
"It was an entertaining game," said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. "Both teams played hard. We both made some bad mistakes. We made some good plays. It was a typical Elba/Notre Dame basketball game. Both teams competed and both teams wanted to win. It had to be a good game for the fans to watch."
It's easy to see the game as an uplifting moment when your team wins, but Elba Head Coach Mark Beehler hardly hid his disappointment at the outcome during a post-game interview.
Elba hasn't beaten its arch-rival since a 2008 sectional playoff.
"That was everything we expect as far as energy and excitement of the game," said Beehler with hardly a trace of energy or excitement in his voice. "Every time we play Notre Dame, it's always a big one."
Elba took a 29-27 lead into the half and the start of the third continued the back-and-forth battle, but as players knocked about for position under Notre Dame's basket midway through the quarter, John Hockmuth was conked in the nose. The game was delayed while officials cleaned blood from the court. Hockmuth was taken to the locker room for treatment and missed the rest of the third and the start of the fourth quarter.
While was out, Notre Dame went on a run. Tyler Prospero scored a pair of threes, Josh Johnson had one and James Farmer had one.
The Irish outscored the Lancers in the third 21-8.
Elba's defense tightened when Hockmuth was back on the court, but couldn't capitalize of a string of Irish possessions that yielded no points.
As the second to last minute wound toward the final minute, the Lancers went on a mini-run, drawing within six points of the lead.
With about a minute left, Notre Dame was called for a backcourt violation. Elba's Richard Flores celebrated a little too exuberantly and was called for a technical foul, his fifth foul of the game.
Rapone said that foul did shift the momentum back to Notre Dame.
"The kids are excited, but they're (the officials) are really strict about taunting now, so you've got to be careful," Rapone said.
Flores (top photo) was a big reason Elba made a game of it. In his first start of the season, he scored eight points and had 10 rebounds.
He plays bigger than his 5' 10" height.
"He hits boards really well," Beehler said. "He's got sticky hands. If he grabs it, he's going to keep it."
In a box-and-one defense, Flores was charged with guarding Notre Dame's hot-shot shooter Josh Johnson. That is what really contributed to Flores fouling out.
"He had a tough task tonight," Beehler said. "He played as hard as anybody out there."
Rebounding was a big part of what kept Elba in the game, Beehler said, that and taking care of the ball, even against Notre Dame's pressure defense.
"Turnover-wise, we only had eight," Beehler said. "That's pretty low for us compared to years past against their press."
Rapone said after the game it's clear his team needs to work on its free throws. The Irish only sank 14 of 33 attempts (43 percent).
For Elba, both Hochmuth and Shane O'Halloran had 14 points. Hochmuth -- nine rebounds. Evan Cole had eight points and 11 rebounds.
For Notre Dame, Johnson had 17 points, C.J. Souzi 10 points and nine rebounds, and Caleb Nellis recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Josh Johnson drives for the basket.
Hochmuth blocks a Casey Midwick shot attempt.
Hochmuth and Nellis battle for position during a free-throw attempt.
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