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February 27, 2013 - 12:13pm

Stout defense helps Notre Dame upset Lady Lancers in Section V semi-finals

posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, elba, Notre Dame.

After five consecutive losses to defending state champions -- the Elba Lady Lancers -- the Notre Dame girls came into Tuesday's Section V semi-final match a little more determined and with a different game plan.

For the first time, the Fighting Irish ran a man-on-man defense.

The Lancers, who routinely score 70 or more points a game, were held to 40 on the night, scoring only 11 points in the first quarter and none in the second.

"Elba is a very good high school basketball team, a well coached team," said Head Coach Dave Pero after his team's 45-40 victory. "To shut out a team like that for even a few minutes is a feather in your cap. To do it to Elba is tough to do."

Riley Norton, who led Notre Dame with 16 points and 12 rebounds, said supporters have been encouraging the team to try a man-on-man defense.

The Irish always play Elba tough (one of the few teams that does) and maybe switching up the defense could make the difference.

"The defense worked," Norton said. "Going out and stopping them defensively is what we've been going out and working on day after day after day."

During the first half, the Lancers were often taking shots with only a few seconds on the clock. It was hard for the girls to find open lanes. When they did shoot, too often the ball didn't drop through the hoop.

"I thought, you know, we've got some quickness," Pero said, "let's roll the ball out and see where it falls. We went man-to-man and it paid off."

Tom Nowak, Elba's head coach, said man-to-man isn't something the Lady Lancers regularly see, but they've successfully played against that tactic before and they do prepare for it.

"We struggled in the first half," he said. "We didn't play Elba basketball."

In the previous five losses to Elba, the Irish have taken leads only to watch them slip away.

As the second quarter progressed, the Lancers turned a 12-point deficit into a two down, which raised the question: Would history repeat?

Of course, she thought that very question, Norton said, but she also felt this night was different.

"I knew we were going to fight through it," Norton said. "We fought through it last Friday. We’ve grown as a team since last time we played them. I knew this was our time and I knew we could hold onto it."

With the lead two, a three-point jumper from Emma Francis late in the 4th gave Notre Dame the emotional lift to hold back Elba.

"We said all along, and this seems to have happened the last four or five times they've beat us, we've got that one bad quarter," Pero said. "We seem to lose our momentum. Well, tonight, they hung in, they stayed composed and it's a great win for the girls."

The rivalry between Notre Dame and Elba is long-standing and crosses the lines between girls and boys sports and wraps in football as well as basketball.

On a slushy winter night, nearly 200 fans of the teams made the hour-long drive to Dansville for the game. Both sides were loud and proud until the final seconds of the game.

When the final buzzer sounded, Elba students rushed onto the court and mobbed the Elba players. The scene suited a championship game, not just a stepping stone to the next round.

Norton was clearly ecstatic after the win.

"This is my senior year," Norton said. "I didn’t want to stop playing. I want to get that patch on Sunday."

Pero admitted, it was a big win for him, too.

Personally, any time you can be a coached Tom Nowack team it’s great, because to me he’s one of the top coaches in Section V," Pero said. "Any time you can match wits with him,  it’s a feather, but it’s all about the girls. It’s not about me or my coaches. It’s about the girls. Without them I’d be nothing, so hats off to them."

Elba had a great run that included a state title and a breathtaking winning streak. Nowak said his girls should be proud.

"Like I told the kids, you’ll look back 10 years from now, 15 years, and realize what you accomplished," Nowak said. "I said I’ve been coaching 35 years in Elba and never did I experience anything like I did last year and this year, winning 44 games in a row. They will be really proud of that accomplishment down the road when they come back and think about it."

Notre Dame plays Friday for the sectional title, 8 p.m., against Romulus at Letchworth.

Photos: Laurie Call and Bailee Welker celebrate following the big win. Emma Francis drives for a lay-up against McKenzie Bezon. Riley Norton and Jamie Marshall fight for a rebound in the 4th quarter. Norton and Kelsey Bezon in the 4th quarter.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

Scott Birkby
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Congratulations to the Notre Dame girls, and to coach Pero. It is sad for the Elba girls, but most satisfying to see their coach take this loss. This is a man who has forgotten that high school students are still kids. He likes to beat down his weaker opponents by enormous margins. It just seems a tad unsportsmanlike to me, given that this is not college Division One basketball. Best of luck to Notre Dame in their quest for a championship. Oh, by the way, I have nothing at all to do with Notre Dame. I just read the sports section in the newspaper and form my own opinion.

joseph bradt
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Some comments should be kept to ones self. The above comment is tasteless in my opinion...

Kyle Couchman
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Joseph, but it is your opinion and the law of the land allows people to express it. I see nothing tasteless in Scott's comment as a matter of fact I had coaches like this growing up and have see coaches like this in Syracuse Ithaca and here. Sometimes truth is uncomfortable and ugly.

Frank Bartholomew
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I have to agree with Kyle. My opinion means as much to me as your opinion does you.
High school sports should be a part of the learning process, not about winning or losing.
But, as the old saying goes, if your not 1st, you're last.Does this send the wrong message?,maybe, but again,
no one likes losing. Now if a coach runs up the score with 2nd string players, that too is another story.
If a coach runs up the score with his starters, in my opinion, that shows poor sportsmanship.
When I was involved with youth baseball, we had a mercy rule, once a team had a ten run lead, the game was over at the conclusion of 4 innings.

Howard B. Owens
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If person A expresses an opinion and person B says I don't like that opinion, person B has not invalidated person A's opinion by saying I find your opinion obnoxious. Person B has not denied person A of some right. Person B has not in any way inhibited person A from expressing an opinion.

In other words, what's wrong with Joseph saying he finds Scott's opinion tasteless. I'm a little surprised anybody would attack him for that. Joseph didn't attack Scott. He attacked Scott's opinion, which is a perfectly valid response to anybody's opinion.

BTW: If I'm a sports coach, my players never let up. That's not how you teach them to win, either at sports or in life. This whole self-esteem movement in modern America where every kid gets a gold star or a little trophy and we're not supposed to have winners and losers is part of the reason today's employers have such a hard time finding workers who want to work hard and achieve something.

Further, if you're a coach of a good team against a bad team, you're not putting in your second string until the game is well in hand (you still have to win the game to get to sectionals), and once you put your second string in A) you want them to play hard, because they need to learn (they're your first string next year) B) second string players want a chance to prove themselves and no self-respecting second string player is going to play soft, that's not why they play the game in the first place. Further, one reason winning teams win is they are better coached -- their practice sessions are more productive and their schemes better thought out and implemented. Second string players are coming into the game having been to the same practices, and usually they have come up through the system since they were in third or fourth grade.

Kyle Couchman
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Normally Howard I would agree with you however when it comes to youth and scholastic sports, I have seen alot of "opinions" like Joeseph's become policy, where parents end up seeing a coach with behavior issues such as this. Its ok to drive kids to greatness, but doing it the wrong way leads to damage to these kids. Its not about gold star everybody winning type of thing. But about kids learning as you say, to win. Everything you stated about winning teams/coaches is correct, but is sometimes carried too far. Thats the reasoning behind my comment.

The tendency to place winning coaches on a pedestal squelching criticism happens too much. It can result in things like what happened to Joe Paterno down in PA. It an extreme case but is just an example of what can happen when people en masse make comments like "Some comments should be kept to ones self. The above comment is tasteless in my opinion..." It discourages people to bother to notice things that arent quite right.

But your right in this case maybe I should have made the above comment rather than the initial comment which wasnt intended as an attack but I can see how it could be interpreted as such.

Scott Birkby
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How's this for tasteless? 79-30, 74-16, 75-16, 83-28, 69-18, 82-29

Those are just some of the scores that this coach has run up against regular season opponents over the past two years. Real "laughers". If you did that to someone in a football game, you would be considered a pariah. I think that it is excessive. They do have this thing in basketball called a "shot clock". It's a box at each end of the court with big lit up numbers. If you use it, you can avoid running a score through the roof if you wish.

Frank Bartholomew
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So Howard, you would teach the kids to just keep pummeling, even when your opponent is down and out?
Sorry, that is poor sportsmanship at the high school level, just my opinion.

kevin kretschmer
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A far more important life lesson to teach the players would be that whether they win or lose, they should play a sport / live their life with class, dignity, and grace at all times. Running up the score does nothing in that regard.

Howard B. Owens
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"Running up the score" is such a false notion.

If you're a coach, you should teach your players to play the scheme at all times. A break down in discipline is what creates losses in the future. Second, players should try to play their best at all times. Anything less teaches sloppiness.

It's not just about this one game. It's about the whole season and coming seasons.

I've been on both sides of lopsided scores. Adults worry too much about "running up the score."

Not one single person was harmed physically or emotionally by the following scores: 79-30, 74-16, 75-16, 83-28, 69-18, 82-29. I can assure not one player on the short end of those scores has given it a second thought. The only people it is upsetting are the ones raising the false notion of "running up the score."

Howard B. Owens
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The other thing about this in Tom Nowak's case is we're debating in a vacuum. Were any of us at the 79-30, 74-16, 75-16, 83-28, 69-18, 82-29 games?

I wasn't.

Relevant questions are:

Did he leave in first string players in the for whole game? If so, why? Was it early in the season and they needed the time together and conditioning to prepare them for the rest of the season?

Who was the opponent? Was it an otherwise dangerous team and capable of mounting a comeback, so he left in the first string longer than he might have against a weaker team?

If he put in the second string, at what point, and what did the other coach do at that point? Some opposing coaches also put in their second string players in after a game is decided for the same reason the winning coach does (prevent injuries to top players, practice and experience). If that's the case, chances are the better team's second team is also better than the poorer team's second string.

You can't ask a player to play soft. That's a horrible lesson to teach kids, but especially if they're second string players who rarely get a chance to play otherwise.

All the critics here are merely looking at the scores and assert nothing about the circumstances and offer no factual evidence to back up the "running up the score" assertion other than numbers that are meaningless without context.

If Coach Nowak is leaving in his first string players with no legitimate reason to do so other than just keep scoring for scoring sake, then that may very well fall within the definition of poor sportsmanship. But the scores themselves, rather meaningless without knowing the circumstances.

Frank Bartholomew
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Things must have changed drastically in the last 10 years. At some point, the ref should step in and stop the fight,why, because fighters never stop. That is my logic. I've learned to be humble, but it is true, it really is hard to be humble.
Defeating an opponent is one thing, embarrassing them is another.
Howard, I wasn't at the Super Bowl, when Dallas spanked Buffalo
the first time, but even without seeing the game, the Bills got embarrassed, look at the score!!!!!

Frank Bartholomew
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Yo votedown, leave a comment, or maybe you have nothing intelligent to add, grow a pair, and share your opinion.

Jason Crater
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You propose that the ref should stop the game early because the score is out of hand? That's not done in basketball. Part of playing sports is learning sportsmanship. You learn to win, you learn to lose. Hopefully you learn to do both well. Getting embarrassed teaches a life lesson, IMO.

Mark Potwora
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I thought the above story was about underdog Notre Dame winning against Elba..Congrats to Notre Dame for making to the next round of the play offs.. ..Good Luck tonite ...

Frank Bartholomew
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Jason , if you read my comment, I was using stopping a fight as an example,showing that athletes won't let up on their own accord. What lessons do uneccessary embarrassments teach Jason?
My post did not say the ref should stop the game, it was a reference, and indicates my logic on beat downs.

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