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The Dansville Online
  • Notre Dame has a big challenge in Saturday's game

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  • The Elmira Notre Dame boys basketball team has a big challenge Saturday in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association quarterfinals. By big, we’re talking literally a very large Waterville roster.
    The second-ranked team in New York State, Notre Dame (20-1) reached the state quarters for the second time in three seasons with an array of athletic guards who can shoot the long ball, or find the open big men in the paint. Waterville (20-2), ranked ninth among Class C teams, relies on an imposing interior offense that scores as easily as it can rebound.
    “They’re big – at least five guys 6-3 or better,” said Notre Dame coach Bill Hopkins. “Most of them are very strong physically, guard play is above average and they’re a zone team – have been all season long – and there’s no reason for them to change now. That’s what we’re facing.”
    The strategy kind of lays itself out: Harass the ball carriers.
    We’re just going to make them work. Every team I’ve seen them play, every coach I’ve spoken to, concedes an entire half of the floor because they can’t match up, so they play zone against them,” Hopkins said. “I think that’s a mistake – if you don’t match up with people, you better go where they are. In a zone, you’re really not sure where they are. They attack the offensive glass like crazy and when you’re playing a zone, you’re responsible for an area and if you don’t put bodies on people, yeah you’re going to get beat on the offensive glass.”
    And the Crusaders have the personnel to make a 32-minute contest seem like a long time for opposing guards.
    With Hunter Thomas bringing the ball up the court, Notre Dame has a senior point guard who has plenty of experience in big games in addition to his defensive prowess. He’ll likely pass off to the Crusaders’ star No. 2 guard Darius Garvin, a junior who can connect from anywhere on the court or slash to the basket himself.
    Waterville would be wise to pay some attention to Jonas McCaig, Notre Dame’s senior sniper who often turns single-digit leads into blowouts in a matter of seconds. Inside, Notre Dame isn’t lacking with senior forward Tom Agan – a 6-5, 210-pounder who can hit from long range, too – and Nate Niles – a 6-4, 200-pound center who can cover a lot of ground quickly, and has a knack for coming through in the clutch. And don’t overlook Derek Marshall, a senior guard with wolverine-like tenacity.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It helps to have seniors and helps to have players who have played a lot of basketball,” Hopkins said of his squad. “Two things, they have a really high basketball I.Q. and the other thing, they all pass the ball very well. When you combine those two things with some size and athleticism, that’s pretty good.”
    Saturday's game is scheduled for a 3:45 p.m. start at Onondaga Community College.
    Waterville is scoring 68 points per game this season, behind Jon Piersma’s 18.2 points per outing and Zack Sawyer’s 16. Point guard Jake English will be the focal point of Notre Dame’s defense, which will try to force as many mistakes as possible. A big reason the Crusaders are still playing in March is their defense, which creates turnovers and offensive chances at the other end.
    Don’t expect to see Notre Dame do much differently on Saturday.
    “I told the kids, ‘When you put five people on the floor and defend multiple positions, take people off the dribble, that’s a pretty nasty offense,’” Hopkins said. “Saturday is very doable on our part, if we play well.”
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