Notre Dame falls on last-second shot

Sunday, December 23, 2007
Notre Dame senior Ryan Willen, center, drew a foul from Gateway Tech defender Corey Breeding (50) during the Pepsi Showcase on Saturday at the Show Me Center. (Kit Doyle)

Himmelberg hit a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

Admittedly, Gateway Tech isn't the best shooting basketball team in the state of Missouri.

But with a front line featuring 6 foot 8 Jessie Perry, 6-6 Kenneth Harris, 6-5 Corey Breeding and 6-4 Sheldon Richardson, the Jaguars will be able to convert a few of those misses into baskets.

That was the case in the final seconds of overtime Saturday as Perry tipped in a missed jumper for the winning basket in Gateway Tech's 58-56 victory against Notre Dame.

"They were just too athletic," Notre Dame coach Paul Hale said. "We had trouble keeping them off the boards and keeping them from penetrating."

Notre Dame junior Austin Greer went up for a shot Saturday.

The Bulldogs (4-4) suffered their first loss since Ryan Willen, a 6-8 senior headed to Division I Lafayette, returned from a stress fracture in his ankle after the team's 2-3 start.

Perry also was returning from a bruised tailbone that kept him out for the past two weeks.

"He couldn't bend over," Gateway Tech coach Kurtis Downing said. "You didn't get to see his versatility because the deep bruise kept him from being more versatile on offense and it kept him from defending laterally."

Perry, who has Southeast Missouri State among a list of about 10 schools he is considering while trying to get his ACT score up to qualify, looked plenty good in his limited abilities Saturday.

He scored 14 points, with 12 of those coming after halftime. Harris added 16, with 14 of his coming in the second half.

Notre Dame senior Mark Himmelberg scored a three-pointer early in the second half against Gateway Tech in the Pepsi Showcase Saturday, December 22, 2007, at the Show Me Center. (Kit Doyle)

Willen had 26 to lead all scorers, and he hit two of Notre Dame's six 3-pointers.

Mark Himmelberg added 15. He hit three 3-pointers, including two to start Notre Dame's rally early in the second half and another with 8 seconds left in regulation that tied the game and sent it to overtime.

Gateway Tech (7-2) had a shot and a putback attempt in the closing seconds of regulation that did not fall.

The teams stayed within one possession of each other throughout the overtime. Notre Dame took a 56-54 lead with 40 seconds remaining when 6-1 junior Austin Greer scored inside off an inbounds play.

Richardson answered right away to tie the score, and Donnell McKinney deflected a pass to give Gateway Tech another possession with less than 20 seconds to play. The Jaguars called timeout with 5 seconds to go.

"The play was supposed to go to me, but they brought two people on me, so I kicked it to the next guy," Perry said. "Coach talks about that there is always the second shot. I knew if I went to the boards, I knew I could get it. I just tipped it up."

The put-back of Chris Cotton's miss danced on the rim as the buzzer sounded before falling in.

"We just made too many silly mistakes in the end," Hale said.

His team was without guard Ty Williams, who has a stress fracture in his back that may keep him out indefinitely, possibly through the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament.

"It didn't help us any," Hale said. "We've all got to step up and play better."

Second-leading scorer Greer, who had missed the first three games of the season with a back injury, came up with nine points but knew he was in for a long night.

"I knew I wasn't going to score too much," he said. "They were strong. [Richardson] was a bulldozer. I just tried to do the little things -- rebound, block out and play defense.

"Playing good teams that are athletic will help us. It was a lot like playing Ruskin last year in the [Class 4] state championship. I like when the teams from St. Louis come down and give us an opportunity to play them."

Gateway Tech, a Class 5 school, also hopes to get better for its first-year coach. The Jaguars had lost to Whitfield and DeSmet early in the season.

"I think we do have a physical team," Perry said, "but their chemistry was better than ours right now. We have a new coach so we're working on getting our chemistry going."

Added Downing: "They have to learn me, and I have to learn their strengths and weaknesses. We hope that when it's January and February, we're working together as a team. We have great expectations. Every game now, we're just working on getting better."

The first half left plenty of room for improvement on both sides. Notre Dame led 8-6 after taking the early advantage on Willen's 3-pointer.

But the Bulldogs failed to score for four minutes as Gateway Tech took the lead. The Bulldogs went to halftime down 20-18 after point guard John Unterreiner picked up his fourth foul and Breeding scored on a put-back late in the half. The teams had combined for 22 fouls to go along with the 38 points.

"I don't know why we came out tight and tense," Downing said. "We had a really good practice yesterday and I thought we'd come out and flow, but that [matchup zone] was a defense we haven't seen before. We did a good job adjusting and getting kickouts, but we're just not hitting shots."

Notre Dame came out firing in the third period and did hit its shots. Himmelberg canned two treys and converted a layup off a steal by Alex Bader for a 30-22 lead.

The lead was 36-27 late in the third period after Willen scored on back-to-back possessions, including a dunk on a fast break. Joseph Tolbert's 3-pointer gave Notre Dame a 39-33 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

"We played better than we did the last three or four games," Hale said. "We just had some mistakes that hurt us down the stretch."

Notre Dame81021107--56

Gateway (58) -- Kaleb Turner 6, Donnell McKinney 3, Chris Cotton 3, Kenneth Harris 16, Dwayne White 2, Jessie Perry 14, Corey Breeding 8, Sheldon Richardson 6. FG 23. FT 11-14. F 22. (3-pointers: Cotton 1. Fouled out: Harris)

Notre Dame (56) -- Mark Himmelberg 15, John Unterreiner 1, Austin Greer 9, Ryan Willen 26, Joseph Tolbert 3, Matt Helle 2. FG 15. FT 20-25. F 19. (3-pointers: Himmelberg 3, Willen 2, Tolbert 1. Fouled out: none)

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