Notre Dame takes down second-ranked Boyd Buchanan to lock up regular season district title

Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Notre Dame basketball players celebrate their regular season clinching district championship after Tuesday's 65-58 home win over Boyd Buchanan.

Pick any court in town on any given night, when Notre Dame and Boyd Buchanan square up on the hardwood there is sure to be a battle.

Over the past four seasons the two teams have constantly been in each other's way in the Division II-A East region. In fact, the seniors on both sides have never faced anyone else in the district tournament's championship game.

Notre Dame's Ben Houston understood the challenge Tuesday night inside Jim Phifer Gymnasium as the senior rose to the occasion to score eight points and block a shot in the final quarter of a 65-58 upset win over No. 2 Boyd Buchanan.

"We had to be tough because they are bigger than us and have been one of the top teams in the state this season," Houston said. "This rivalry has come down to a lot of close finishes and is filled with great moments. I love being able to contribute to our team locking up a regular season championship tonight."

The Fighting Irish (14-8, 8-1 region) sealed the regular season title as they won the head-to-head points differential after having lost 56-52 on the road to the Buccaneers (20-4, 6-1) earlier this season.

Sophomore Gaas Herman was a force off the dribble on his way to a game-high 19 points, while junior teammate Cole McCormick hit a buzzer beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to provide Notre Dame with a 43-36 lead. McCormick finished with 18 points, followed by Houston with 12.

The Fighting Irish built their lead to nine with a great find by senior guard DJ Brown to a driving Herman with 3:40 remaining.

"Josh (Templeton) and I were texting back and forth today about how much of a war this game always is. It was another one tonight," said Notre Dame coach Jonathan Adams, whose team won the district tournament on a putback against Boyd last year. "Josh does a great job and to me is the state's coach of the year. For us to get a win is huge and provides a lot of momentum."

Boyd Buchanan senior guard Ryan Lopez hit five 3-pointers on his way to an 18-point performance, while Jacob Shockley finished with 13.

"This win means a lot to us right now, but we will see them again in the district championship," Houston said. "We want to defend the championship here on our own court."

The Lady Buccaneers (17-6, 8-0) wrapped up a perfect regular season in district play with a 45-32 road win over the Lady Irish as Sarah Peyton Durham, Jada Sanders and Dani Reeves all scored in double figures.

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.