Trips aren’t always about where you are going, but rather what you are bringing and Notre Dame found out Wednesday night Goodpasture packed a whole lot of defense and fundamentals for its journey to the Irish den in the Division II-A state first-round encounter.
And it didn’t hurt that the state’s top-rated Division II-A team was manned by a bunch of 6-foot-2 clones that seemed virtually interchangeable on the court.
“When their point guard is taller than your post player and they shoot it like they did it doesn’t matter how scrappy your 5-foot-8 guys are.
We did a great job in a lot of areas and it just didn’t seem to matter. Everybody they rolled out there looked just like the one before them. At some point, nature has a say in things,” Notre Dame coach Jonathan Adams said.
And the laws of nature had the Cougars 52-37 better than the Irish when the final horn sounded in a game that had a 1950ish Indiana-small-town-hoop-on-the-side-of-the-barn look to it.
Goodpasture, which had an 18-game winning streak snapped in a region semifinal loss last week, was lethal from the outside, efficient on the inside and at one point one could have sworn they ran the “picket fence” play from the movie Hoosiers.
“We’re a team that believes every possession matters. We learned a valuable lesson last week and fortunately it wasn’t an elimination game. This one was. We saw what (Notre Dame) did against CAK last week and we knew this would be a hornet’s nest coming in here, so we had to be at our best. The offense was a bonus for us, but that defense travels with you everywhere you go,” said Goodpasture coach Adam Sonn, his club now 30-2 and headed to Memphis for a quarterfinal bout with Lausanne.
The loss in the region semifinal may have been a blessing in disguise for Goodpasture, but it certainly wasn’t for Notre Dame.
“You finish with 22 wins, a third seed and you get the top-ranked team in the state,” shrugged Adams of his fate.
“They’re good. They shoot it over defenders, pass it over double teams and traps, and don’t make mistakes. At some point, you have to say you got beat by a better team.”
But the Irish, making just their third state tourney appearance in school history, didn’t make it easy by any means on the Cougars. In a game that was played at a very calculated pace, both squads were forced to patiently work the ball around. At one point, it looked more like a PAC-12 football game with all the passing back and forth.
Goodpasture inched out of the gate with an early 9-3 lead with all nine points coming from Tripp McEachern.
Notre Dame closed it to 13-9 after the quarter and CJ Greer’s and-one on a floater in the lane and free throw got it to 16-14 early in the second period.
The Cougars, though, responded with back-to-back 3s after opening the period with back-to-back 3s. The second set of treys started a 12-0 run that took the Cougars into the break with a commanding 31-18 lead. Goodpasture made seven of 11 shots in that period, including four 3s, and almost all of them were contested.
“My guys kept looking at me after the makes and all I could say was good defense,” Adams said.
Added Sonn: “Those were really big 3s in the run. We shot 29 percent in our loss last week, and that’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact. I think it gave us momentum and confidence to see them going down tonight.”
The third quarter really took on a deliberate pace with only five made field goals between the two squads as Goodpasture especially seemed content to shorten the game with a fresh unit of five substitutes allowing the starters to rest for the homestretch. And how precise was the Goodpasture passing? It didn’t make its first turnover in the game until 1:23 was left in the third, and it was by the second unit.
Notre Dame (22-13) began the final period down 35-24, but seemed to be picking up momentum as Derwin Lewis sandwiched a 3-pointer and a layup around Greer’s rebound follow to make it a 39-31 game with 3:53 left.
On Goodpasture’s ensuing possession, McEachern bulled his way to the goal and was fouled with one ref signaling the call on the floor. McEachern, to his credit, continued the drive and made the bucket and another official overruled the floor call and counted the bucket.
Adams was demonstrative in his response and drew a technical from the Athens-based official and when all was said and done, McEachern’s made bucket and two free throws pushed it back to 43-31.
The Irish then proceeded to miss four free throws down the stretch and Goodpasture was just too good to give away enough empty possessions to make it matter.
“I’m just really proud of the guys, especially my seniors. They are a great group of kids and mean a lot not just to Notre Dame but to me personally. To make it to the state for the first time 15 years says a lot about them, about all of them. They are special and it goes way beyond the number of wins,” Adams praised.
It was the final game for five Irish seniors. Greer led the bunch with his 11 points, while Akil Sledge had six points and two big steals. The other seniors were Joey Cochran, who nailed a big trey to keep hope alive late, Nolan Corbitt and Jake Mossing.
McEachern led Goodpasture with his 22 points, 15 of them coming in the first half.
Goodpasture 13 18 4 17 -- 52
Notre Dame 9 9 6 13 -- 37
GOODPASTURE (52) – Smith, Sowlock 7, Bailey, Murrell, Musgrove 8, Dearing, Phillips 2, Tinnin, Woosley 4, Dotson, 5, McEachern 22, Turner 4, Littlepage.
NOTRE DAME (37) – Nelson 2, Greer 11, Cochran 3, Lewis 7, Summitt, Corbitt 4, Price 4, Sledge 6, Turley, Mossing.
3-point goals: Goodpasture 5 (Musgrove 2, McEachern 2, Sowlock); Notre Dame 2 (Coachran, Lewis).
(Contact James Beach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @beachnut1134)