Notre Dame took advantage of Grace Christian Academy’s time away from the court and shut down the visiting Golden Eagles in a lopsided victory on Friday evening.
Grace, in its first game back from a 10-day layoff, hung tough with the Fighting Irish throughout the first half, and trailed by 10 at the break.
“They’re a really tough team,” Notre Dame head coach J.P. Nerbun said. “They play a really tough style of basketball and they’re scrappy. They were fighting and they were getting all the loose balls in the first half. That really helped keep them in it I thought.”
The Irish were too much for the Golden Eagles in the second, though. Especially senior Stedmon Ford.
“Stedmon Ford was the difference in the game, and probably most of the games that they play,” Grace coach Jon Mattheiss said. “They’ve got some really nice players and a nice team, but he’s the difference maker. He’s the X-factor.”
Ford, who knocked down five 3-pointers for the Irish (11-5), led all scorers with 25 points — 17 of which came in the second half — and Notre Dame cruised to a 71-47 win.
“He breaks down defenses and once he breaks down the defense, whether it’s on a fast break or in the half court, people have to rotate over to help,” Mattheis added. “He’s willing to kick it out to teammates and get assists. If he was a little more selfish maybe it would be easier.”
Kealy Green finished with 15 points for the Irish, while Kyuan Davenport added 13, including three 3-pointers, as Green did a good job getting others on his team involved.
It was a long second half for the Golden Eagles (6-6), as they were outscored 37-23 in the final two periods. The loss didn’t seem to bother Mattheiss much, whose team hadn't even practiced over the Christmas break.
He thinks the time off will help them in the long run.
“We have several guys who played football and only had two or three days break between football and basketball,” Mattheiss said. “This is the first time they’ve had 10-days off with no practice.”
Unlike the Golden Eagles, the Fighting Irish prepared for this game with an entire week of practice, prepping its defense for Grace’s brand of basketball. Notre Dame didn’t do anything fancy, but had its defense ready for anything Grace threw at it.
“Defensively we did a much better job,” said Nerbun, whose team finished third at last month’s Best of Preps Tournament last week at Chattanooga State. “We’ve had a great week of practice and it was a really easy game to coach. We prepared well and we played like we were prepared.”
Grace was paced by Austin Powell’s team-high 13 points, Josh Smith chipped in nine and Will Slack contributed seven in the losing effort.
Both teams return to action Monday when Grace hosts Chattanooga Christian Academy, while the Fighting Irish travel to Sequatchie County for its first District 7-AA contest of the new year.