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ND escapes Perryville scare
Wayne Essner and Doug Schaefer weren't on the ambiance committee for Notre Dame's homecoming Friday night, but they had a little something extra special prepared for the occasion.
The pair combined for just 15 points in the Bulldogs' 65-54 victory over Perryville, but they provided quality over quantity.
In a game in which Notre Dame (17-7) led from the middle of the first quarter, the pair unmasked a covert operation midway through the third period.
And it brought more of a rise out of the large crowd than the pregame Parade of Athletes, the king and queen candidate introductions, or the halftime tug-of-wars between classes.
With Notre Dame leading 38-34, and in the midst of its game-long struggle to shake Perryville (12-13), Bulldog junior guard Travis Siebert stole the ball and passed ahead to Essner just off to the left side of the Pirate basket. A simple layin wasn't quite right on homecoming, so Essner banked the ball off the glass and just over the front of the rim.
The 6-foot-6 senior center grabbed the ball and dunked it through to complete the unique alley-oop.
"It was spur of the moment," Essner said. "I saw Doug coming in and said, 'it's Senior Night, why not?' It was improv all the way."
Schaefer was a little more candid about the crowd-pleaser, which was his first dunk at home.
"That was planned," said Schaefer. "I called out to him to put it off the backboard."
Schaefer sheepishly admitted he occasionally works on the play when coach Darrin Scott wanders out of the gym.
"We've been working on it over the season, and it just finally came together" said Schaefer. "We finally hit one. I just hadn't had an opportunity yet and I was glad to get it on homecoming."
The final product drew a small smile from Scott after the game.
"In those situations, I just want them to score," said Scott. "It went in, so I'm happy."
The timing may not have been ideal for such a risky play.
The basket came shortly after Perryville crept to within 35-34 on a 3-point basket by Tim Winningham and was part of a 13-3 spurt which carried over into the fourth quarter to give Notre Dame its biggest lead of the game, 48-37.
Perryville got as close as four points, 56-52, with two minutes left, but Notre Dame hit 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to pull away.
Siebert finished with a game-high 20 points for Notre Dame while Schaefer had 12.
Chad Ozark led Perryville with 19 points and Justin Dreyer and Andrew Meyr each had 10.
Perryville scored the first four points of the game, but Notre Dame, starting five seniors in their final home game, came back with seven unanswered points to take the lead for good. The Bulldogs' Garrett Holzum tied the game 4-4 on a drive to the basket and Paul Unterreiner followed with a 3-pointer on the next possession.
"I thought we played extremely hard and came out with a lot of emotion," said Scott. "And our seniors did a great job of getting us the lead there in the first quarter. You have to give Perryville a lot of credit for coming back each time."
Notre Dame led 12-6 at the end of the first quarter and, after opening a 10-point advantage early in the second period, settled for a 27-23 halftime lead.
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