Notre Dame boys win district title with 23-point rout

Sunday, February 24, 2008
Notre Dame's Ty Williams avoided Sikeston's Matt Ritch during the first half of the Class 4 District 1 championship game Saturday at the Perry Park Center in Perryville, Mo. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

The Bulldogs won the Class 4 District 1 crown.

PERRYVILLE -- Notre Dame junior John Unterreiner had a real long day Saturday, but it ended on a high note.

Unterreiner, when turning around quickly at the Bulldogs' 10:30 a.m. shootaround, felt a sharp pain and something pop in the back of his head. He sat the rest of practice and spent the next three hours at the hospital, where he had a CT scan done.

Luckily, the tests revealed that he was fine.

He showed he was more than OK later that evening in the Class 4 District 1 title game against Sikeston.

Notre Dame's Austin Greer took a shot over Sikeston's Michael Porter during the first half.

Unterreiner certainly is not his team's top offensive weapon. He averages 6.8 points per game, the fewest points per game of any Notre Dame starter.

But Saturday, he combined with 6-foot-8 center Ryan Willen to score 66 percent of their team's points in a 59-36 rout in front of a rowdy, sold out crowd at the Perry Park Center.

Willen, his team's biggest offensive threat, averaging 23.5 points per game, poured in 23 points while Unterreiner chipped in 16.

The duo outscored the entire Sikeston squad by three points.

"I'm glad he's all right," Willen said of his good friend, Unterreiner, who was standing close by. "We needed him tonight.

Notre Dame's John Unterreiner drove between Sikeston's Sherwin Jones and Matt Ritch during the first half of the Class 4 District 1 championship game Saturday at the Perry Park Center in Perryville, Mo. Unterreiner finished with 16 points. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

"I didn't do much. I just got down low and they fed the rock to me. John's laughing at me because he did everything. He got the 3s and steals."

Notre Dame earned its second straight district title with the victory. It also won the championship contest against Sikeston last winter.

As the game began, both the Sikeston and Notre Dame crowd sections were wild, standing to cheer every chance they received. And so many people were in attendance that extra metal bleachers were pulled in to extend both schools' student sections.

The Sikeston crowd became less noisy, however, as the game progressed and Notre Dame extended its lead.

"Why so quiet?" chanted the Notre Dame student section at the opposing crowd.

Notre Dame's Austin Greer took a shot over Sikeston's Michael Porter during the first half on Saturday, February 23, 2008. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Notre Dame pulled ahead 13-4 in the first 5 minutes, 37 seconds of the contest as Willen and Mark Himmelberg combined to score eight points during the stretch.

But Sikeston would use a 5-0 run over the final 1:30 of the first quarter to pull back within four points and cut the lead to 13-9 heading into the second quarter.

Willen helped Notre Dame on 10-2 run in the first 2:03 of the second quarter with a 3-pointer and two baskets inside. Notre Dame outscored Sikeston 18-10 in the second quarter to enter the break ahead 31-19.

"We knew they are a tough team, and you know they're always going to come back," Unterreiner said. "We figured they were going to make a run in the second half. So all day we talked about getting up early, and it just happened. We could score inside and we played some good defense today."

Willen said a key to the first half and the entire game was stopping Sikeston's top offensive weapon, Michael Porter. He scored 52 points in two previous wins over Notre Dame this season, two contests that Willen sat out with a stress fracture in his ankle.

Notre Dame's Ryan Willen shot from under the basket during Saturday's title game. Willen scored 23 points.

Notre Dame held Porter to four points in the first half.

"That was our whole focus on defense -- stopping him," Willen said. "We knew they ran their offense through him and our guards did a heck of a job. Most of the time they were guarding him up top, and they forced a lot of turnovers. They got after him really well and that threw him off his game."

Himmelberg added: "We just had to make sure he was accounted for at all times. We stayed in front of him and made him shoot shots over us. And we didn't let him get around us because once he gets to the basket, no one is going to stop him. At some point in time, everybody on the team covered Porter."

Notre Dame continued to increase its lead and pull away in the third quarter with the help of Unterreiner, who scored 10 of his team's 18 points in the period.

Unterreiner was successful driving to the basket.

Notre Dame's Ty Williams pushes past Sikeston's Matt Ritch during the first half on Saturday, February 23, 2008. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

He squeaked his way past the Sikeston defense for an easy layin that put his team ahead 37-21. He then helped build a 20-point lead with 3:28 remaining in the quarter when he worked his way inside to score a basket while getting fouled.

Unterreiner displayed an excited look as he watched the basket fall in and celebrated with teammates. He then headed to the foul line and converted for the three-point play.

"He really stepped up tonight," Himmelberg said. "John can do it. He doesn't get a lot of credit because he doesn't score the most points and doesn't take a lot of shots. But when it comes down to when we need him, John knows when he needs to step up and he's great at attacking the basket and dishing the ball off. He's a great defender and he just does a lot of things well."

Notre Dame coach Paul Hale added about Unterreiner: "He'll go some games and won't score. He plays good in big games. He's a competitor. Usually the bigger the game, the better he plays. He had a good game tonight."

With a 20-point lead heading into the fourth, Notre Dame cruised to victory.

Notre Dame's Ty Williams found himself in an uncomfortable position trying to protect the ball from Sikeston's Brandon Washington during the first half.

"It never really felt easy," Himmelberg said. "We really thought it was going to be a battle, and we knew we had to play really, really well in order to come out on top. That's why they are No. 3 in the state because they are a good team. I think it just came down to that we played the best defense we've played all year. The first half we really hit the boards, and I think we held them to one offensive rebound. That's where they get most of their points. We just played a complete all-around game."

Notre Dame13181810--59
Sikeston910107--36

Notre Dame (59) -- Spencer Schoch 2, Ty Williams 7, Mark Himmelberg 7, John Unterreiner 16, Austin Greer 2, Ryan Willen 23, Logan Glueck 2. FG 22, FT 11-14, F 11. (3-pointers: Himmelberg 1, Unterreiner 1, Willen 2.)

Sikeston (36) --Jaqualin Wiggins 6, Matt Ritch 5, Sherwin Jones 4, Stephen Jackson 1, Cal Lane 7, Michael Porter 13. FG 15. FT 4-10, F 17. (3-pointers: Ritch 1, Lane 1)

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