Columbia Comeback Ends Notre Dame's Season

Cole McCormick Scores 17 In Final Game, But Irish Fall 49-46

  • Wednesday, February 21, 2024
  • John Hunt

They say that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but maybe they should add high school basketball to that list.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had an amazing season after starting with eight straight losses while their best player Cole McCormick recovered from a broken wrist. Entering Wednesday night’s first-round state tournament game with Columbia Academy, you might have thought that the Irish didn’t have a chance as they entered with a 13-20 record while the Bulldogs entered at 25-5.

Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, the season came to an end at the Jim Phifer Gymnasium as the visiting Bulldogs escaped with a come-from-behind 49-46 victory.

It’s been an interesting season for coach Jonathan Adams and his Notre Dame guys. Without question, it didn’t end like any of them wanted, but the Fighting Irish battled for all they were worth and came thisclose to pulling out a major upset.

“We were right there,” said Adams after exiting a somewhat somber Notre Dame dressing room.

“I told the guys before the game that all I wanted was a chance and they gave that to me. They showed just what they are made of and I couldn’t be any more proud.

“Those guys from Columbia are really good and they won 26 games for a reason. But we just made some critical mistakes down the stretch that really hurt. But the ball just didn’t fall our way tonight. We knew it would be tough and it was, but I just hate that our season has to come to an end as I really love being around those guys,” Adams said with a serious tone.

Columbia coach Jarrett Jones was just happy to be on the winning side as Notre Dame gave his kids all they wanted and more.

“That was a great high school basketball game,” Jones began after a quick talk with his kids once the final horn sounded.

“We just had to gut that one out and we’re thankful to come out on top. It seemed like we were sleep walking at times as Notre Dame really punched us in the mouth at the start, but I thought we did a nice job of turning up the defensive intensity and that was probably the difference. But I’ll complain about a win, so we’ll take this one and keep moving forward,” he added.

The Irish came out firing from long range as their first six field goals came from beyond the arc. The second from Gaas Herman gave the Irish their biggest lead of the quarter at 12-4 before Columbia scored eight straight points to tie at 12-12 on a bucket by Griffin Cooper.

Herman sank another one in the final minute before a 3 from Jake Ballard knotted the score at 15 when the first quarter ended.

Columbia took the lead for the first time at 21-20 with 4:53 left in the second and there were six lead changes in that final stretch before Riley Roberts scored on a layup with eight seconds left for a 26-25 Notre Dame lead at the break.

A 3 from Braylan Hammond and two free throws from McCormick put Notre Dame up 31-25 to start the second half while two more charity tosses from McCormick near the end allowed the Irish to carry a 39-33 lead into the final eight minutes.

Six straight points from the Bulldogs – including four from Cooper and two from Gabe Davenport – knotted the score at 39-39 with just over five minutes to play and all of a sudden, every possession counted for more than normal.

A free throw by Herman with 5:09 to play put Notre Dame up 40-39 before the Bulldogs got back-to-back buckets from Ballard and Cooper to go up 43-40 with 3:23 left.

Herman’s fourth trey knotted the score for the last time at 43-43 with 2:30 left. Jeremy Jackson scored on a drive down the lane with 1:25 showing to put the Bulldogs ahead by two before a 3 from the wing by Roberts put Notre Dame back on top by one with 1:01 left.

Jackson’s drive down the lane with 39 seconds left put Columbia up 47-46 before the Bulldogs got the ball back following a Notre Dame backcourt violation.

Davenport sank two free throws with 20.4 seconds to play for a 49-46 lead for the Bulldogs. Notre Dame had the ball for the final possession, but Davenport made a key steal as the clock wound down and he hurled the ball into the air as he drove past the half-court line as the horn sounded to celebrate a tough win.

Jackson scored 14 points to lead the Bulldogs while Cooper and Ballard both followed with a dozen each.

McCormick finished his last game in a Notre Dame uniform with 17 points and eight rebounds as Columbia had an unofficial 19-18 edge on the board.

Herman was next with 13 while Roberts finished with eight.

THE NEWS WASN'T any better down the road at Boyd Buchanan as the Buccaneers ended their season with a 51-50 loss to Goodpasture. The Silverdale boys got a bye in this round and will play Webb on Saturday with the winner advancing to the D-II State Tournament at Tennessee Tech next week.

COLUMBIA ACADEMY 15 10 8 16 -- 49

NOTRE DAME 15 11 13 7 -- 46

COLUMBIA (49) – Davenport 7, McClellan 4, Griffin Cooper 12, Jake Ballard 12, Jeremy Jackson 14, Brownlee, Estep.

NOTRE DAME (46) – Hammond 6, Goeller, Sims, Gaas Herman 13, Santiseban 2, Cole McCormick 17, Flowers, Roberts 8.

3-Point Goals: Columbia 3 (Ballard 2, Davenport); Notre Dame 9 (Hammond 2, Herman 4, McCormick, Roberts 2).

(Email John Hunt at

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