PORTSMOUTH — This time, the Notre Dame Titans didn’t have to make a two-and-a-half hour road trip to capture a coveted sectional title.

Nope, this one was official high atop on Sunrise Avenue in Portsmouth —which the air had to be way up there, on the top rung of the ladder, for NDHS head coach Matt Mader cutting down the nets.

That’s because, following outscoring the visiting and 11th-seeded Whiteoak Wildcats 29-20 for the second half, sixth-seeded Notre Dame punched its second consecutive Division IV Southeast District tournament ticket —with a 50-41 win over Whiteoak on Friday night at Notre Dame High School.

That 50-41 final, in fact, marked the Titans’ largest lead — as Notre Dame never trailed in the first, third and fourth quarters, and withstood six second-stanza lead changes and three ties (18-18, 21-21, 24-24).

The first tie was with 1:22 left before halftime, the second was at intermission itself, and finally the third was with Whiteoak standout senior Landon Barnett burying his second of two three-pointers at the 4:47 mark of the third frame.

Just 17 seconds later, though, Notre Dame freshman Aaryn Bradford bagged a three-pointer —and the Titans, as part of a 15-point third canto and 14-point fourth, never looked back.

Linus Wik scored inside with two minutes and five seconds left to get the Wildcats within 43-40, but the Titans answered with a 7-1 run to end the game —on the combination of a Carter Campbell basket off a Landon Barbarits assist 20 seconds later, a pair of Barbarits free throws with 55 seconds left, and 4-of-4 free throws 14 seconds apart by Cody Metzler.

Notre Dame senior Carter Campbell (22) brings the ball up the court as teammate Cody Metzler (11) trails the play during the Titans’ Division IV boys basketball sectional championship game against Whiteoak.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

With the victory, the Titans —the runner-up to Green in the Southern Ohio Conference Division I by a single game — raised their record to 18-5, and won their 10th contest in a row to boot.

But more importantly, after winning the sectional championship at Waterford a year ago after making the bus trek to Washington County, this bout for a return trip to the district tournament was nice to have on the hill.

“It feels great, especially to be able to do it on your home court in front of your home fans in this atmosphere,” said Mader. “The kids loved it.”

The Wildcats end up at 11-12, but were indeed a tough out —taking leads at 13-12 and 15-14, before an 18-16 edge with a minute and 48 seconds left before halftime.

The Titans’ largest lead, before the final score and in the final 39 seconds, was five points.

In a super-fast first half, as both clubs played strictly 2-3 zone, Whiteoak’s Weston Blair was called for the only two fouls —with one being a moving screen.

Campbell split a pair for the only first-half foul shots, but the Wildcats went man-to-man in the second 16 minutes —and the game got more physical with a few more whistles.

Buckets by seniors Campbell and six-foot and seven-inch Dominic Sparks made it 31-26 with 2:18 to play in the third —followed perhaps by the sequence of the game with only six-and-a-half seconds left in the period.

Barbarits made a well-anticipated and well-timed interception of a Wildcats’ pass, stole the ball at midcourt, and drove in for a layup which resulted in an old-fashioned three-point play —and re-energized the Notre Dame faithful.

Notre Dame’s Landon Barbarits (1) drives past Whiteoak’s Landon Barnett during Friday night’s Division IV boys basketball sectional championship game at Notre Dame High School.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

“Definitely a big play right there. Landon jumped in the passing lane there and scored,” said Mader.

Over the first five minutes of the last, the Titans’ lead ranged from three to seven points —as Barbarits canned a corner-pocket three-pointer, with Campbell converting three two-point goals.

“Down the stretch, I thought we were able to get a second wind and was able to pull it out. Sealed it at the foul line,” said Mader. “I think earlier in the year this was something we weren’t able to do. That’s learn how to win games and put teams away.”

The junior standout Metzler was the game’s leading scorer, with 19 points on three twos and three threes before the final 39 seconds —in which he meshed all four of his freebie attempts.

Campbell and Sparks both made five field goals apiece, as Campbell went for 11 and Sparks 10 —with all of Sparks’ scoring before the fourth.

“Any one of those guys can go for 20 (points a night). It’s been that way all year. We’re just moving the ball around and getting it to the open guy. It’s a really unselfish group. They really share the basketball well and don’t care who scores,” said Mader.

Mader said the Titans took care of the basketball, delivering more attention to offensive detail —which is what is imperative in tournament tilts.

“We had some nice inside-out looks, and Cody (Metzler) was balanced in his scoring in each quarter. We played our zone, we took care of the ball, made free throws at the end. Only giving up 21 points at halftime, I thought we were in a good position,” said the coach. “I thought we shot the basketball well, moved it well, got some good looks with Carter (Campbell) and Dominic (Sparks) down low and they were able to finish. We got some big stops at the end too.”

The Titans’ turnovers were only three, as they shot 43-percent from the field (19-of-44) — with 47-percent (14-of-30) coming from inside the arc.

Metzler with five and Barbarits with four accounted for three-quarters of the Notre Dame assists, while Sparks secured a double-double with 11 rebounds — with Metzler muscling for eight and Campbell corralling five.

Carson Emery with 15 points and Barnett with 14 points paced the Wildcats, as both seniors scored six field goals while Emery made 2-of-2 fourth-quarter free throws.

Speaking of which, with Whiteoak getting as close as 43-40, the Wildcats did miss back-to-back and-one situations —by Barnett and Wik.

Luken Rhoades (six points) and Evan DeAtley split a second-half pair as well —as Emery, Roades and Zander Roades all drained a three-pointer apiece.

The Titans turned their attention on Monday night to the Division IV Southeast District semifinals —and another long road trip to play another Scioto County club.

That is third-seeded South Webster, which was a 63-34 lopsided winner over 14th-seeded South Gallia on Friday night in another sectional championship game.

The Jeeps, on Jan. 14 in a non-league encounter, escaped Notre Dame with a narrow 39-36 victory —and even the talk then was about a rematch for now.

And, all the way at Athens High School on Monday night —plus a late yet primetime tipoff at 8:30 p.m. —that rematch was on.

But Mader, f0llowing Friday night’s win, liked where his Titans stood.

“This group has continued to work hard and has bought in to what we’re teaching and coaching,” he said. “It’s a great group and we’re happy to move on and play again on Monday night.”

Notre Dame boys basketball head coach Matt Mader celebrates with the net following the Titans’ Division IV boys basketball sectional championship win over Whiteoak on Friday night.

Paul Boggs | Daily Times

* * *

Whiteoak 8 13 10 10 —41

Notre Dame 12 9 15 14—50

WHITEOAK 41 (11-12)

Luken Roades 2 1-2 6, Carson Emery 6 2-2 15, Evan DeAtley 0 1-2 1, Zander Roades 1 0-0 3, Landon Barnett 6 0-1 14, Linus Wik 1 0-1 2, Weston Blair 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 16 4-8 41; Three-point field goals: 5 (Landon Barnett 2, Luken Roades, Carson Emery and Zander Roades 1 apiece)

NOTRE DAME 50 (18-5)

Landon Barbarits 2 2-5 7, Connie Thomas 0 0-0 0, Aaryn Bradford 1 0-0 3, Cody Metzler 6 4-4 19, Carter Campbell 5 1-2 11, Myles Phillips 0 0-0 0, Dominic Sparks 5 0-0 10; TOTALS 19 7-11 50 ; Three-point field goals: 5 (Cody Metzler 3, Landon Barbarits and Aaryn Bradford 1 apiece)

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved