PONTIAC >> One week from the start of the district playoffs, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep continued to build a little momentum Monday with a 70-61 win over Madison Heights Madison.
From the middle of the opening quarter onward, the Fighting Irish never trailed, but were forced to work for every inch of the court in the face of a high-pressure defense deployed by the Eagles.
“I’m most pleased with how we handled the pressure. Obviously, they were full-court pressing and trapping and everything all over the place. We did a great job,” Notre Dame Prep coach Whitney Robinson said. “We had struggled with that for most of the season. Here, as the season is winding down, we’ve done a better job of handling it.”
Notre Dame Prep entered the second half with a 27-19 lead and survived multiple surges by Madison in the third quarter. The Eagles trimmed their deficit to as few as five points on several occasions amid a back-and-forth flurry of offense, but remained eight points down when the dust had settled to begin the final stanza.
Eight straight points by the Fighting Irish kicked off a strong closing effort that extended the margin to as many as 17. Three-pointers by Ethan Johnson and Garrett Hegbloom in the final three minutes put the game out of reach.
“We talked about having been in this situation before, up or down a few, and how we didn’t bring the intensity we needed,” Robinson said of the message entering the fourth quarter. “The seniors kind of dug in and made some promises, then came out and stuck to them.”
Notre Dame Prep was bolstered at both ends of the floor by senior Jack Hannon, who posted a game-high 25 points, double-digit rebounds, and a couple timely blocks.
“He’s been doing that all year. He had 37 points on Friday, and 31 another game,” Robinson said of Hannon. “Twenty-five is a great game, needless to say, but nothing out of the ordinary for Jack.”
Johnson, a junior, added 13 points for the Fighting Irish (9-10), while seniors Alexander Siegfried and Devin Martin chipped in with 10 and eight points, respectively.
“We’ve been playing our best basketball here of late, and we’ve had our toughest competition here of late as well,” Robinson said, noting the team’s impressive win against Detroit Loyola last week. “We’re putting it together and hopefully we’ll be ready for the (district opener) against Pontiac next week.”
Madison’s loss was just its third of the season, having already locked up the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division title. The Eagles (15-3) were led offensively by senior Austin Brown’s 24 points. Cameron Carodine added 16 points in support.
Madison will face Royal Oak Shrine on Feb. 25 to begin the playoffs.
Before Monday's game, Notre Dame Prep honored seven seniors for their final home game.
“They’ve committed and given so much to Notre Dame Prep over the past four years,” Robinson said of his senior class. “It’s been a privileged to coach them. They’re great young men, respectable and hard-working. I could be here the rest of the night telling you all of the good things they’ve done.”
February 18, 2019