published Friday, December 27th, 2013

Irish edge Golden Eagles, 58-57

If only they needed two points.

Grace Academy's Golden Eagles executed a long inbound pass for a layup just before the final horn Thursday against Notre Dame in a boys' first-round game in the Times Free Press Best of Preps basketball tournament at Chattanooga State. But after the Fighting Irish's Tyler Byrd made two free throws with four seconds remaining, Grace needed three points to send it to overtime.

Instead, Brandon McQueen's three-quarter-court pass led to Will Slack's basket, but that left the Irish winning 58-57.

Notre Dame (3-8) will play Tyner today in a championship semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Grace (4-7) will take on McCallie in a consolation semifinal at 11:30 a.m.

Darris Waters, a Grace assistant who is filling in for head coach Jon Mattheiss while he and his wife are visiting family in San Diego, said he tried to make his players aware of the time-and-score situation but noted that forgetfulness can happen sometimes in the heat of the battle.

"It would've been perfect," Waters said of the final play had his team needed two points.

Notre Dame was down eight in the third quarter when it went on a 19-3 surge and took a 50-42 lead with a little more than three and a half minutes to play.

"I think the five that were out there just decided to get after it on the defensive side of things," Notre Dame coach J.P. Nerbun said. "They started playing like we've been teaching them.

"The effort wasn't there most of the game. We played at the end."

The Irish were 2-of-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter before making 6 of 8 in the final 34.4 seconds.

"Normally we do a better job of boxing out," Waters said. "They got a couple of offensive rebounds off free throws that hurt us down the stretch."

Kealey Green led Notre Dame with 23 points. Byrd added 17 and Kareem Orr scored 12.

Slack's 20 points led Grace. Andrew Godsey had 14 and Blake Savard contributed 12.

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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