ALLENTOWN Notre Dame coach Pat Boyle was a bit concerned with Panther Valley, especially the presence it offered in the paint, prior to its District 11 Class AA quarterfinal round game.
"We were really worried about this game coming in," Boyle said. "We knew if they were able to get the ball in the post we might be in big trouble."
The Crusaders prevented that from happening by pressuring the Panthers' guards and then complemented their defensive efforts with a superb perimeter shooting display.
The combination allowed Notre Dame to build a 25-point halftime lead and cruise to a 70-50 victory on Saturday at Dieruff High School..
Boyle praised the play of his guards in the opening half.
"They weren't able to get it inside because of our pressure," Boyle said. "We forced them to run their offense 30-feet from the basket and we created some turnovers in the backcourt.
"Noah Miller set the tone for us. He really pressured their point guards and with a nine-man rotation we were able to push the tempo in the first half."
In the opening quarter, the go-to person for the Crusaders was Connor Hughes, who nailed five of his first six shots for 12 points. Those buckets were enough to help the Crusaders build a 18-7 lead after one.
In the second quarter, seven different Crusaders scored with Miller leading the way with six points to push the lead to 39-14 by intermission.
Despite the huge deficit, the Panthers didn't quit as they fed off some motivating words from head coach, Pat Crampsie.
Rather than pack it in and call it a season, the Panthers put together a strong third quarter.
They found a way to push the ball inside as five of the Panthers' seven basket in the quarter came from in the paint.
The Panthers' Brock Mitchell led the charge by scoring nine of his 11 points. Mitchell also hit a three-pointer from the baseline with 1:18 left, which pulled the Panthers within 16 points.
The Panthers were able to rattle off 19 points in the final frame, but the Crusaders stayed out of reach by hitting 11-of-19 free throws in the final minutes. Nick McArdle's three-pointer with 3:54 left in the game pulled the Panthers as close as they would get down by 14 (57-43).
"As disappointing as the game was tonight, and the way we came out, I was very proud that the kids stuck with it the rest of the way," Crampsie said. "They just laid it all out there in the second half. We said at halftime, 'It might not be enough, but the impression we left out there in the first half isn't what we want to leave on this season or leave in this gym tonight.'
"The kids did a great job of fighting through it and finishing strong. Notre Dame was obviously the better team."
Stephen Romanchik tied Mitchell for a Panther high with 11 points. McArdle finished with 10 points.
"That was the best first half we played all year and we needed it because I was really worried about this game," Boyle said. "They had some mismatches against us that they were able to take advantage of in the second half.
"I have to give coach Crampsie all the credit in the world because we were up 25 at half and most teams aren't going to come out with that intensity in the second half and Panther Valley did."
The Crusaders will now face No. 2 seeded Pine Grove, a 69-47 win over No. 7 seeded Williams Valley, on Wednesday at 7:30 at Martz Hall in Pottsville.
King 0-0-0-0, Szczecina 0-0-0-0, Dunn 0-0-0-0, McArdle 4-0-0-10, Stano 0-0-0-0, Ogozalek 1-0-0-2, Romanchik3-5-10-11, Dalessio 1-1-2-3, Kusko 0-0-0-0, Ferryman 2-1-1-5, N. Mathewson 4-0-0-8, Mitchell 5-0-0-11. TOTALS: 20-7-13-50.
NOTRE DAME (GP)
Miller 5-1-3-12, Gregg 3-4-6-10, Scott 4-0-0-8, Huerta 0-3-4-3, C. Reed 1-4-4-6, Deutsch 1-1-3-3, Santos 0-0-0-0, Miller 0-0-0-0, T. Reed 2-0-0-5, M. Reed 0-0-0-0, Myers 0-0-0-0, Hughes 6-1-2-15, Eze 2-4-6-8. TOTALS: 24-