Soon after his team knocked off the newly anointed No. 1 program in the state, Notre Dame's Tim Vaughn took joy in a humongous achievement.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore played all out on the court as he led the Irish to a 40-33 victory at Boyd Buchanan in an intense Division II-A region battle Tuesday night.
Vaughn flashed his toughness under the left side of the basket as he absorbed a hard foul with his shot rolling in as he crashed to the floor out of bounds. His teammates quickly sprinted to celebrate and help him up before he sank a free throw to put the Irish up 34-25 with 3:50 left to play.
"I love it. I love it. I love it," Vaughn said. "To win this big of a game feels great. We lost to Boyd by four the first time, but we came back and played hard. I had been playing weak for the past few games, and I just got tired off it. So I got aggressive.
"I trusted my coach. He told me to play aggressive and keep attacking and to hit my free throws. That's what I did."
Vaughn was 5-of-6 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter and 6-of-8 for the game. In the fierce battle between two rock-solid defensive teams with great coaching, Vaughn was the only player to score in double figures. He had 14 points.
Boyd Buchanan turned the ball over 12 times in the first three quarters. Those included a steal by Notre Dame senior Hugh Robinson, who sent a long pass ahead to Hayden Spurgeon for a 3-pointer from the top left of the arc for a 29-23 lead at the third-ending buzzer.
Notre Dame (9-9, 3-1) held the lead after every quarter and senior Cal Price gave the visitors an early spark with two deep field goals for to build a 6-0 lead in the first three minutes.
Boyd Buchanan senior Jacob Oliver keyed a 7-0 run with his second 3-pointer followed by a nice find to a flashing Preston Edmondson underneath the basket.
Ian Johnson — who was honored before the game for surpassing 1,000 career points — gave the Buccaneers (12-3, 2-1) their first lead of the game at 16-15 with a fast-break layup he made while being hit from behind with 2:38 before halftime.
"Boyd brings the fight out of you," Notre Dame coach Jonathan Adams said. "They are the No. 1-ranked team in the state and have earned it. We knew we had to play with toughness to match them. All of our games from here on are going to be wars. That's exactly what it is when we play each other."
Bucs standout Eli Evans scored seven third-quarter points, but a rough night offensively in a low-possession game gave Notre Dame chances to pull away.
Vaughn made a strong move to the hoop to hit a layup over two defenders to give Notre Dame the lead back at 24-23 with 2:30 left in the third, which was followed by an all-out-effort defensive play leading to a layup by Robinson.
Spurgeon hit his clutch 3 and the Irish built a 10-point lead with 3:05 left to play.
"I have been telling Tim to play with confidence," Adams said. "He's just a sophomore, and so you have off games at times. But we all believe in him. He is a hell of a player, and it showed tonight. He stepped up to give us fight in the biggest game of our season to now. I am proud of him and all of our guys."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.