Tuesday night might have been the season opener for the Notre Dame and Red Bank boys' basketball teams, but the intensity level was in midseason form.
Defensive pressure on both ends of the floor forced 47 total turnovers, and Notre Dame held off a second-half charge by host Red Bank to win 53-44.
"I was really proud of how hard we played," said Notre Dame coach Jonathan Adams. "We played through a lot of mistakes and I was proud of the effort that we brought, especially early in the season."
Red Bank got off to an electric start with two monstrous dunks in the first four minutes that energized an already boisterous crowd, as the Lions jumped to an early 10-3 lead. A late 6-0 run by Notre Dame, however, pulled the Irish to within one after a quarter.
After missing all six shots from behind the arc in the first quarter, the Irish heated up on 3-pointers in the second, going 2-of-5. Notre Dame senior Derwin Lewis scored nine of his game-high 24 points as Notre Dame outscored the Lions 14-5 in the period to take a 23-15 halftime lead.
"We dug a hole in that second quarter," Red Bank coach Nick Fike said. "That was the difference in the ballgame. I was proud of our defensive intensity throughout the game. But we talked at halftime about how we had to work inside-out and stop settling for jump shots."
The Lions listened. After the Irish extended their lead to 15 points three minutes into the third quarter, Red Bank mixed man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone pressure defenses to force a run of Notre Dame turnovers, while feeding the ball inside to Brandon Jones as they got back within 10 to end the quarter. Jones had a team-high 18 points, while Tory Sewell had 15.
The Lions pulled to within six points with just over a minute left in the game, but a big fourth quarter from sophomore Cal Price — he scored nine of his 19 points in the period — along with clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch by the Irish proved to be the difference. Notre Dame went 10-of-11 from the charity stripe in the final quarter.
"I think one of the hardest things to teach a young team is how to play with a lead," Adams said. "Give Red Bank a lot of credit, they kept fighting us tooth-and-nail. I was proud of our kids and how we regrouped and knocked down free throws."
Contact Kevin Llewallyn at firstname.lastname@example.org