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The championship game of the Lane Thanksgiving tournament came down to the wire and brought out the best of each teams’ best players. Zion-Benton’s Milik Yarbrough scored 18 of his 27 points in the fourth period as Jake Maestranzi and tournament MVP Matt Mooney of Notre Dame answered with clutch shots in a 57-52 victory for the Dons.
Notre Dame (5-0) had a 38-31 lead in the fourth period before Yarbrough heated up. The junior forward, who took most of the shots in the period, cut the Don lead to 43-39 with a free throw with 3:42 left in the game. It was the closest Zion-Benton (4-1) had been since the first period. Maestranzi (16 points) answered with a three from the left baseline before Yarbrough took the ball the length of the court from the inbounds pass and drew a foul on a three-point attempt from the top of the key.
After Yarbrough converted all three free throws, Maestranzi buried a mid-range jumper from the right key to give the Dons a 48-42 lead at the 2:28 mark. Mooney (21 points, 7 rebounds) then hit two free throws on Notre Dame’s next possession.
“I got open and was fortunate enough to make some shots,” said Maestranzi. “Basketball is a game of runs and we knew they would make their run and we would respond with a run of our own.”
But Yarbrough did not slow down and hit a three of his own from the left baseline. Mooney then missed a shot but the ball was tipped in by Eddie Serrano (8 points, 5 rebounds). Yarbrough’s second three of the period cut the Notre Dame lead to 53-48, but Maestranzi buried two free throws when he was fouled seconds later.
Yarbrough was fouled driving to the basket on Zion-Benton’s next two possessions and converted all four free throws, making it a 54-52 game. Mooney was then fouled and swished both free throws to seal the championship.
“Winning this tournament gives us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season. We thought we could actually win this thing and to actually do it is big for us moving forward,” said Mooney.
Junior center Chris Moragne pulled down 10 rebounds and chipped in seven points for Zion-Benton.