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Notre Dame banking on experience

02/20/2013, 9:19pm CST
By Dan Shalin

The Notre Dame boys basketball team hopes its experience and talent can be enough emerge victorious from a very deep and talented Glenbrook North Sectional.

Notre Dame's Dontre Stephenson moves to the inside thanks to a well-placed pick by teammate Danny Lazzara. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media

As the No. 2 seed, the Notre Dame boys basketball team is among the favorites to emerge from the Glenbrook North Sectional.

But top-seeded Maine South, not to mention No. 3 New Trier, No. 4 Niles North, No. 5 Loyola and No. 6 St. Patrick all have similar sectional-title aspirations.

Notre Dame has defeated Niles North and St. Patrick this season, but lost earlier this month to suddenly-streaking Loyola.

Dons coach Tom Les said it’s hard to designate one team as the favorite to win the sectional.

“I think it’s pretty much up for grabs,” he said. “There are five or six teams that are capable (of winning).”

The Dons, who entered the Tuesday’s season finale against Lincoln Park with a 21-5 record, start the postseason at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 when they face either No. 15 Von Steuben or No. 18 Maine East in the Class 4A Glenbrook South Regional.

One thing Les knows is that his Dons are not likely to encounter a style of play they haven’t seen this season.

Even in a potential Chicago State Supersectional matchup against Simeon or Whitney Young, the squad from Niles will have positive experiences to call upon. On Dec. 2, Notre Dame led Morgan Park for three quarters before falling 61-53 to a Mustangs team that went on to knock off Simeon in the CPS semifinals.

Les said earlier this week that he expected to have starting forward Eddie Serrano back healthy again for the postseason.

The senior injured his foot in the 55-50 loss to Marian Catholic on Friday, a defeat that dropped Notre Dame to 5-3 in the ESCC. Serrano then missed the 73-72 win over St. Charles North two days later.

In the St. Charles North game, two other key Dons showed they were getting back to 100 percent.

Leading scorer Matt Mooney’s career-high 35 points proved the Air Force-bound senior has fully recovered from a tailbone injury that forced him to miss a game-and-a-half in early February.

Meanwhile, senior forward Justin Halloran appears to be getting his touch back after missing five weeks in December and January after injuring the index finger of his shooting hand.

Halloran knocked down 7-of-8 fourth-quarter free throws against St. Charles North, including three in the final 10 seconds after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.~.

Halloran, Mooney and Serrano lead Notre Dame’s core group of seniors, which also includes starting guards Jake Maestranzi and Donte “Scooter” Stephenson. Seniors Danny Lazzara and Billy Hirsch also are on the team.

“We have a lot of seniors and we know how to win big games and how to play each and every game to the end, no matter what,” Maestranzi said.

Notre Dame junior Duante Stephens said this year’s squad has the intangibles necessary to make a playoff run.

“I think this team is built on teamwork,” he said. “We’re all happy to see each other succeed. We have good team chemistry and the seniors really want to go far. As long as everyone does their part, we can go pretty far.”~.

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