Bulldogs use edge in 3-pointers to move into championship tilt

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The top-shooting team among the final four participants hit sevenin the semifinal.

COLUMBIA -- The Notre Dame boys basketball team came into the Class 4 final four as the most prolific 3-point shooting team among the remaining squads.

The Bulldogs had hit 180 3-pointers heading into Friday's semifinal game against St. Charles. Notre Dame needed all seven of its treys against the Pirates to pull out a 53-51 win.

Notre Dame will face Ruskin and 12:20 p.m. today in the championship game.

Down four points at halftime, Notre Dame hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter to pull ahead 40-38 after three quarters. Back-to-back 3's from Mark Himmelberg and Ty Williams capped a 12-2 run to give Notre Dame its largest lead at 37-31 in the third.

"We have some good outside shooters," Notre Dame coach Paul Hale said. "The Himmelberg kid off the bench has hit six and five in the playoffs, and Ty has set a school record for 3's. That's one of our strengths."

Things did not start off so smoothly for the Bulldogs from beyond the arc. Notre Dame hit just one of seven 3-pointers in the opening half. But something clicked for the Bulldogs after the break.

"I think we had a bit of nerves the first half," Williams said. "The second half, we started to play hard and shots started going in for us."

The Bulldogs went on to hit six of nine 3-pointers in the second half and finished 7-for-16. Williams was 4-for-7 from beyond the arc and Notre Dame center Ryan Willen hit a pair of 3's.

"That was the difference in the game," St. Charles coach Gary Wacker said. "They hit 3's and our inability to guard their 3's."

Battle of the bigs

The biggest matchup heading into the game was the battle between St. Charles center Josh Harrellson (6-foot-9, 265 pounds) and Willen, listed at 6-8 and 190 pounds.

Harrellson gave Willen problems at times -- Harrellson finished with six blocks -- but Willen was able to use his athleticism and spin moves to lead all scorers with 19 points.

"I knew they were a lot taller than me, so I had to make moves to get to the basket," Willen said.

Neither star player subbed out, as they battled more than 29 minutes before Harrellson eventually fouled out with 2:52 remaining.

Willen played the entire 32 minutes, and the junior scored the game-winning free throws with 3.1 seconds left.

"I've played whole games before," Willen said. "I knew he was just as tired as I was. I was just trying to make him run."

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