PORTSMOUTH — Both Clay and Notre Dame have had their fair share of tight games during the 2020-21 boys basketball season.
It’s only fitting that during the two’s first meeting in Southern Ohio Conference Division I play this season, that too be a game going down to the wire.
Titans coach Matt Mader said following their 37-34 win over the Panthers on Tuesday night that a close game was not unexpected — due to the historic nature of the rivalry between the two schools separated by just 4.5 miles.
“You can throw the records out the door anytime Clay and Notre Dame get together in anything,” Mader said. “It’s a battle.”
The game’s largest lead was a seven-point Clay advantage at 22-15 near the midway point of the third quarter.
For the remaining 11 minutes and change, ND and Clay battled within a one-to-two possession game.
In the nitty-gritty of the fourth quarter, it was Notre Dame’s defense that ultimately put it ahead when the final buzzer sounded — outscoring the Panthers 16-10 over the final eight minutes.
Unofficially, the Titans forced 20 Panther turnovers, including two in the game’s final minute while committing just 11 themselves.
The win gave Notre Dame its second straight and 6-of-9 this season after Saturday’s win over Rose Hill Christian, a game in which the Titans surrendered just 51 points.
“Defensively tonight, I think we had energy and intensity,” Mader said. “We talked about building off what we did Saturday night against Rose Hill. Giving up 12 points at halftime, felt really good about that and I think our energy continued in the second half.”
Clay coach Garrick “Tiny” Anderson said after the game that he felt his Panthers got the shots they wanted on most offensive possessions, but some decided not to fall.
“Offensively, we got the shots that we wanted to get, we ran our offense and got shots within it,” Anderson said. “We aren’t going to score in the 70s or 80s, so we have to take what the defense gives us. I thought our guys executed our offense, but give credit to Notre Dame’s defense on making us turn the basketball over late in the game.”
Clay’s defense and Notre Dame not connecting on a few shots were also a reason that the Panthers led at the middle two stops — 12-9 at halftime and 24-21 after three quarters.
Clay did win the rebounding battle, outrebounding the Titans 26-21.
“Kids were pressing a little, missing a lot of easy shots. But give Clay credit — Coach Anderson had them playing extremely well,” Mader said. “Those guys shared the basketball, really ran the clock, and got good shots offensively. We stuck with it and showed some resolve, proud of the way they battled.”
“We preach defense, Coach (Eric) Horton our defensive coach does a great job on getting the kids to buy in defensively,” Anderson said. “We knew coming into this game that we had to have a good defensive performance. Tonight our kids accepted the challenge and competed for four quarters. We had a couple of defensive breakdowns but overall, we competed each possession and that’s all we could ask for.”
Clay senior Shaden Malone scored a game-high 12 points, while senior teammate Clay Cottle added 11.
Notre Dame was led by junior Johnathan Strickland, who scored a team-high 10 points.
The Panthers, now 2-10 (2-5 SOC I), will next prepare for Friday night’s home game versus New Boston — and its current 22-game league winning streak.
“We can’t be satisfied on how we played tonight. We’ve taken steps forward each game and we have to continue to do that,” Anderson said. “Notre Dame is going to win a lot of games this season and to be able to compete with a team that is up near the top of our conference is always a positive. The kids are believing and it is showing these last couple of games. The second round of conference games are coming up, so hopefully we can make a little run and get some momentum come tournament time.”
Tuesday’s win improves the Titans to 6-3 overall (4-2 SOC I) — ahead of Friday’s home game versus Symmes Valley.
In their first meeting, Notre Dame escaped Willow Wood with a 72-65 road win over the Vikings back on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
“I think just being in close games, situations that come up in close games and how you handle them, how you handle them the next time,” Mader said. “Hopefully these situations late in games, we’re learning and getting better from.”
* * *
Clay 2 10 12 10 — 34
Notre Dame 5 4 12 16 — 37
CLAY 34 (2-10, 2-5 SOC I)
Clay Cottle 4 3-4 11, Shaden Malone 5 2-5 12, Gavin Cayton 0 0-0 0, Carson Porginski 0 0-0 0, Cullen Payne 0 0-0 0, Jaymes Jones 0 0-0 0, Evan Balestra 2 0-0 5, Jaden Jessee 3 0-0 6; TOTALS 14 5-9 34; Three-point field goals: 1 (Evan Balestra 1)
NOTRE DAME 37 (6-3, 4-2 SOC I)
Carter Campbell 2 1-1 5, Jermaine Powell 0 0-0 0, Caleb Nichols 2 1-4 5, Dominic Sparks 2 0-0 4, Jackson Clark 2 2-5 7, Dylan Seison 2 2-2 6, Johnathan Strickland 3 3-5 10, Ethan Kammer 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 13 9-17 37; Three-point field goals: 2 (Johnathan Strickland and Jackson Clark 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved