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Bulldogs run out of magic
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Too many easy baskets.
That was the theme of Notre Dame's 84-72 loss to O'Hara on Friday in the Class 4 boys basketball state semifinals at Mizzou Arena.
After running its last two opponents into the ground, Notre Dame found itself against a quicker ballclub Friday. The Bulldogs (14-17) turned the ball over 26 times, leading to countless fast breaks and layups.
Notre Dame will face Westminster Christian (26-6) in the third-place game at 9 a.m. today. O'Hara will face Willard (29-2) in the championship game.
O'Hara (26-5) point guard Marcus Walker helped lead the Celtics' defensive effort, which collected 15 steals.
"Walker is super-quick," Notre Dame coach Paul Hale said. "Some of those other kids are quick too."
Brandon Toliver led the Celtics with five steals, and Adrian Jackson finished with four.
"Adrian Jackson, I have to give it up for my teammate," Walker said. "He had at least five alone, and they were key turnovers in the first half."
O'Hara was able to convert many of those 26 turnovers into easy baskets by beating the Bulldogs down the floor. It seemed like every time the Celtics would get a steal, someone from O'Hara was waiting for a pass on the other end of the floor.
The Celtics ended up with 56 points in the paint. What makes that stat even more telling is that other than Toliver, O'Hara's center who scored 19 points, the Celtics did not have any other inside players.
Hale said his team was not ready for the Celtics' snowbirding style.
"The guards got a bit too deep offensively, tried to hang around too long," he said of his team.
Despite giving up countless easy baskets, Notre Dame was able to fight back into the game with some gritty play. The Bulldogs were behind from midway through the second quarter but made a run early in the fourth.
With the help of 3-point baskets from Bryce Willen and John Eric Klein, followed by a three-point play from Alex Ressel, Notre Dame cut O'Hara's lead to 53-51 with 6 minutes and 5 seconds remaining. Notre Dame didn't score another basket for nearly three minutes, though, as O'Hara went on a 13-0 run which put the game away.
"When we got back within three, I thought we had a chance, but we had a bad shot or two," Hale said. "We never could stop their break."
Added O'Hara coach Todd Magwire: "We've gone through that the last five games or so. We've had leads and teams make runs. These guys know one thing: there's no fear, just play basketball."
Walker, who sat out the first 3:28 of the game due to disciplinary reasons, finished with a game-high 31 points. Almost all of Walker's points came off drives to the basket or the free-throw line.
"Penetration from Walker hurt us all game long," Hale said.
When Walker was not creating his own shot off penetration, he was setting up his teammates. Walker, a Nebraska recruit, finished with nine assists, many going to Toliver.
Willen led the Bulldogs with 22 points and added seven rebounds while playing the entire fourth quarter with four fouls. Ressel added 16 points and seven rebounds.
While some early jitters were evident on both sides, the Bulldogs led much of the first quarter. Notre Dame led 17-11 after one quarter and built its biggest lead of 19-11 to start the second.
Toliver scored six straight points for O'Hara to tie the game at 21-21, and Walker's second basket of the game with 4:16 remaining put the Celtics up 23-21, a lead they would not relinquish.
Heading into today's third-place game, the Bulldogs still have plenty of positives to take away from their semifinal loss.
"I think for as nervous as everyone was today, we pulled it together as best as we could," Willen said. "We beat each other down a bit, but we played as hard as we could."
Added Hale: "We played the second-ranked team in the state tough. To get within two, we proved we can play."
O'HARA 84, NOTRE DAME 72
NOTRE DAME (72) -- Bryce Willen 22, Alex Ressel 16, John Eric Klein 8, Frankie Ellis 5, Abe Dirnberger 6, Jacob Essner 5, Mark Unterreiner 3, Jeremy Brinkmeyer 2, Kirk Boeller 1, Brandon Holzum 2, Lucas Dirnberger 2. FG: 24, FT: 19-28, Fouls: 24. (3-pointers: Willen 2, Unterreiner 1, Essner 1. Fouled out: none)
O'HARA (84) -- Marcus Walker 31, Brandon Toliver 19, Adrian Jackson 12, Michael Sanders 8, Marc Davis 4, Andrew Rogers 2, Casey McNamara 2, Shane Dennis 4, Jake Ortiz 2. FG: 32, FT: 20-30, Fouls: 20. (3-pointers: none, Fouled out: none)