Neither East Ridge coach Jon Goddard or Notre Dame coach J.P. Nerbun was particularly pleased with the way their teams played Monday night, but Goddard really couldn't complain a whole lot after his team placed four players in double figures and had the upper hand in every quarter en route to a 71-59 victory in East Ridge's Catherine Neely Gymnasium.
The Pioneers did okay on the offensive end, but his team's lack of defensive intensity was what really bothered the soft-spoken coach.
"I knew that we'd be a little rusty after having a couple of days off and today being a holiday from school, but I didn't feel like we played well defensively as we sent them to the free throw line too many times," Goddard said afterward.
"Offensively, I was pleased, but defensively, we have to play a whole lot better. Right now, we're just trying to build a little momentum as we get ready for the tournaments in a couple of weeks, but with Baylor coming here Tuesday night, we'll have to play better defense.
Notre Dame won the rebound battle by a 24-21 margin. While the Fighting Irish were extremely efficient from the charity stripe -- they sank 15 of 17 for a blistering 88 percent -- they couldn't match the Pioneers' offensive output, which had four players in double figures and another with eight points.
"Kolbe is taking shots that he can make and JoJo has also become a scoring threat, but we have several guys on our team who can be offensive weapons," Goddard concluded.
The Irish had the upper hand for much of the opening quarter before Cordarius Talley scored on a putback with 26 seconds left before Eddie Hitchcock had a steal and a layup four seconds later. With the free throw following the foul, the Pioneers had a 16-14 lead when the first period came to a close.
A.J. Flemister nailed a jumper from the free throw line to knot the score at 16-all to open the second quarter, but Kolbe King hit a 3 from the baseline and Keion Jones sank a short jumper in the lane to give East Ridge a 21-16 lead.
Tyler Byrd had an alley-oop slam at the buzzer to draw Notre Dame within four (31-27) at intermission.
The Irish stayed within striking distance at the free throw line in the third quarter as they sank all eight shots, but an 8-0 run in the middle of the stanza allowed East Ridge to stretch the lead to 12 points and Notre Dame never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The biggest lead of the game for East Ridge came at 67-54 when Jones scored on a drive down the lane with just under two minutes to play.
Notre Dame's Nerbun was really upbeat and feeling good about his team's progress after they stunned District 7-AA leader Bledsoe County on Friday night, but he didn't have much good to say following Monday's loss.
"What can I say? We had a total lack of heart tonight. We had a poor practice Sunday afternoon and it was almost like we were going back to our old ways, but I'm really displeased with how we prepared for this game.
"East Ridge shot the ball well, but we had beaten them in overtime at our place earlier. I guess that since this wasn't a district game, they didn't take it very seriously," Nerbun nodded.
Hitchcock had 18 points to lead the Pioneers while King was next with 15, all coming from long range. Tillery and Jones were close behind with 14 points apiece.
Kareem Orr and Kealey Green topped Notre Dame with 17 points apiece while Byrd finished with 16.
Talley had 10 rebounds to lead East Ridge while Green snagged seven for Notre Dame.
East Ridge will be at home again Tuesday night to host Baylor while Notre Dame will be on the road to face Grundy County.
NOTRE DAME GIRLS 51, EAST RIDGE 32: The Lady Irish got off to a roaring start with a 17-5 lead in the first quarter and extending it to 31-10 by halftime as they cruised to the easy 19-point victory.
The Lady Irish were led in scoring by Keonna Beaman and MeMe Siler, who both finished with 10 points.
Nine Notre Dame players scored as they were forced to play without leading scorer Taelor Hill, the standout sophomore who suffered a major knee injury on Friday night and will be out the rest of the season.
Jayla Stone was tops for East Ridge with 14 points while Rabbit Lawrence was next with nine.
NOTRE DAME 17 14 12 8 -- 51
EAST RIDGE 5 5 6 16 -- 32
NOTRE DAME (51) -- Beaman 10, Cantrell, Ripper 1, Wittler 4, Bouchard 8, Higgins 5, Masterson 1, Hoffer 6, Williams 6, Champlin, McMeen, Siler 10.
EAST RIDGE (32) -- Stone 14, Kendricks 1, Murphy, Martin 2, Moon, Hill 2, Lawrence 9, Tate 4, Moore.
3-POINT GOALS: Notre Dame 2 (Williams 2); East Ridge none.
NOTRE DAME 14 13 15 17 -- 59
EAST RIDGE 16 15 20 20 -- 71
NOTRE DAME (59) -- Orr 17, Green 17, Flemister 4, Davis, Byrd 16, Ballard 1, Harris 4.
EAST RIDGE (71) -- King 15, Tillery 14, Talley 8, Hitchcock 18, Jones 14, Blair 2.
3-POINT GOALS: Notrre Dame 2 (Orr, Green); East Ridge 8 (King 5, Tillery, Hitchcock 2).
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)