ND boys advance to Class D1 finals
Notre Dame head coach Mike Rapone will find himself in a familiar place on Saturday evening…in the Class D1 sectional finals.
The Fighting Irish earned Rapone his 18th trip to the finals, the second most in Section V since the start of the open tournament in 1975, with a 59-37 win over Fillmore.
This trip may be one of the most gratifying however.
Notre Dame started the season 4-2, but since the New Year they have gone 13-1. They clawed their way to a share of the Genesee Region League title; earned the top seed in Class D1 and now they will play for a sectional championship.
“They have really come together as a team,” said Rapone. “They’ve grown as individuals, learned what their roles are and they have been rewarded with a chance to get to this game. Now hopefully they can close the deal.”
The Fighting Irish got off to hot start, closing the first quarter on a 13-3 run, with Tim McCulley notching 11 points in the frame.
The second quarter saw much of the same, as Notre Dame would go into halftime with an 18-point lead.
The third quarter was a struggle, though.
Fillmore came out of the locker room fast, starting the second half on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 33-25. In fact, Notre Dame would not score their first points of the quarter until 2:58 to play.
“I thought we played well in the first half,” said Rapone. “The worst thing that could have happened was halftime. I think they thought they thought the game was over. It took us awhile to get back, but eventually we got things moving a little better. We played well defensively, but the offense wasn’t there.”
While McCulley finished with 27 points, he struggled to find his rhythm all night, shooting just 9-of-26 from the field.
“I think he pressed a little bit in the second half,” said Rapone. “He missed a shot or two and they made that little spurt at the start. He took a few shots he usually doesn’t take. But, he’s the guy who got us here and you live through those.”
Notre Dame made up for their lack of offensive production on defensive and on the boards. The Irish out-rebounded Fillmore 38-30 and compiled 10 offensive rebounds.
In particular, Charlie Herbert cleaned the glass all night.
The senior, who is playing in his first season of competitive basketball, grabbed 9 caroms, with 3 coming on the offensive end.
“Charlie has really come so far,” said Rapone. “He’s such a strong, athletic kid on the boards. He really works hard on the defensive end and on the boards. Even the ones he doesn’t get, he keeps them alive.”
Alec Covel continued to play well also, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Josh Johnson had a strong all around game with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
While McCulley struggled shooting the ball, he was solid in other areas with 7 steals and 5 assists to go along with his game-high 27 points.
Kyle Redman led Fillmore (15-6) with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Jordan Mullen scored 12 points.
If Notre Dame (17-3) can win on Saturday night, Rapone will tie former Lyons Hall of Fame coach Dean Schott for most sectional championships since 1975 with 9.