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Jake Maestranzi walked into a perfect situation when the senior guard transferred to Notre Dame from South Elgin. Instead of having to carry a team, he simply had to fit in and let his talent flourish.
“We have a lot of great players here and a great coaching staff that really stresses what they want you to do and how they want you to play,” he said.
Maestranzi scored 12 points, distributed four assists and recorded three steals to lead the No. 10 Dons to the 54-37 victory over Leo Saturday in the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference Challenge at Loyola in Wilmette.
The Dons’ senior point guard gives Notre Dame coach Tom Les a match up nightmare, playing alongside senior Donte Stephenson. “Scotter [Stephenson] is a great player, and it gives the coach a chance to play two point guards or have either one of us slide over and play the 2 [guard],” Maestranzi said.
The winless Lions (0-6) hung around behind the inspired play of senior forward Kerron Braggs (12 points, nine rebounds). Notre Dame led just 26-18 at the break when Maestranzi elevated his game. He scored on a three-point play and drilled a three-pointer from the right wing that keyed a 10-0 burst to start the third quarter.
Notre Dame (9-1) converted eight of its first nine shots in the quarter in extending the run to 21-4. “I think our defense was a big part of that,” Stephenson said. “We got a steal right at the beginning, turned that into a lay up and kept it going. The coaches really stress defense.”
Stephenson had six points, six assists and two steals for the Dons. His penetration allowed the Notre Dame shooters to find open room at the three-point line.
Notre Dame converted nine three-pointers and held a 27-6 advantage on shots beyond the arc in leading by as many as 25 points. After a slow start, going just 1-for-7 in the first half, star senior Matt Mooney scored 11 points. Justin Halloran converted three three-pointers in scoring nine for the Dons.
Duante Stephens contributed eight points and five rebounds as seven different Notre Dame players scored. Senior swingman Eddie Serano added six points.
Freshman guard Darius Branch scored eight points for the Lions.