CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After losing fourth-quarter leads in the last two quarterfinals against the eventual Class A state champions, Notre Dame finally finished a game at the state tournament, beating Gilmer County 66-45.
“It feels great on several levels,” said Notre Dame coach Jarrod West on Wednesday night. “The games we’ve lost up here, I would have rather lost by 30 – you walk out saying, ‘We couldn’t beat that team.’
“But it hasn’t been that situation. It’s been self-inflicting; some coaches’ decisions and player decisions. When you have to wait a whole other year, it’s painful. This feels good because we have seven seniors. It feels great to come in here and win. It feels great to finish the last four minutes of a game on this floor.”
The No. 4 Irish (21-5) shot 50 percent, won the rebounding battle 34-27 and outscored Gilmer County 32-12 in the paint.
In the fourth quarter, Notre Dame went 9-of-11 from the floor and 7-of-9 free throws.
“Tonight was probably the most animated I’ve been on the sidelines,” West said. “We had a little two-minute spurt where we had turnovers and bad shots. But we got people in the right spots and we were able to finish. In the past, we haven’t finished and attacked the basket. But we have been focusing on it all year and when we were able to do that, it was crucial for us.”
After a 9-9 tie at the end of the first quarter, Notre Dame held a slim, 26-23 lead at the break.
The Irish pulled away with a 14-5 third quarter and built that lead out to 44-28 on a Jarrod West, Jr. jumper with 7:18 remaining.
“We realized that we weren’t really playing well at halftime, but we were still up three,” West, Jr. said. “We knew if we picked up the energy and did what we had to do, we could open it up a little bit. We came back out with a lot of energy, we made shots and played defense. Defense was huge tonight and we boxed out a lot better.”
West, Jr. led Notre Dame with 16 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while Jared Fagan added 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the win. No. 5 Gilmer County (21-5) was led by Carter Springer’s 15 points and Trey Shuff’s 10 points.
Gilmer County coach Steve Shuff announced in his postgame that he would be stepping down to take time to watch his son, Trey, and daughter, Kylie, play in college.
“It’s been a heck of a ride,” Shuff said. “I’m stepping to the side, my twins are going to college and playing at the next level. Their mother and I are going to just take some time to follow them around.
“This is the most successful senior class to ever walk through those hallways,” Shuff said. “We went 11-1 in football and into the playoffs for the first time. Then to go 21-5 in basketball and four of those five losses are from teams into the semifinals here.”
Notre Dame’s win sets up a semifinal showdown with No. 1 Wheeling Central on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. The Irish have two losses to the Maroon Knights from the regular season, but lost second half leads in both.
“We have enough to do it, but we have to finish,” West said. “It’s probably going to be a dogfight on Friday – it’ll probably be a good game and a close game. It’ll likely come down to who executes in the fourth quarter. We have to execute down the stretch. If we do, we’re excited about our chances. If we don’t, we won’t win. It’s as simple as that.
“When you play Wheeling Central, you have to beat them. You have to play 32 minutes and beat them. They won’t beat themselves.”