Notre Dame High ran its win streak to seven games Tuesday night, not only because of the stellar play of one of its Knights, but also because its rustic gym resembles Camelot.
Put the Knights' basketball team in it--and 1,600 screaming fans--and the gym undergoes a transformation from mild-mannered building to King Arthur's castle. Alemany discovered how rough it can be, losing, 83-67, in a Del Rey League game at Notre Dame.
The victory was the fourth in a row at home for Notre Dame (8-6, 4-0), which is in first place in the league. Alemany's first Del Rey defeat dropped the Indians (6-7) to 2-1 in the league.
"They love basketball here. It's a tradition," Notre Dame Coach Mick Cady said. "It's very difficult to play in this gym."
For their opponents, yes, but for the Knights, the louder their fans get, the better the team gets.
"It gets you hyped up. It gets your adrenaline flowing," guard Kenny Hicks said.
Hicks had more than body chemicals moving against Alemany. A 6-4 junior, Hicks scored 20 points during the second and third quarters as Notre Dame turned an 18-10 deficit into a 52-43 lead. He finished with 25 points.
"He's really starting to come into his own," Cady said.
With Alemany leading, 20-14, one minute into the second quarter, Hicks outscored the Indians, 7-3, as Notre Dame closed to within two points. Notre Dame's Brian Jones tied the score, 25-25, on a baseline jump shot two minutes later, then Hicks gave Notre Dame the lead for good with a jump shot at the end of the half.
The two-point lead quickly became 12 in the third quarter as Notre Dame's pressure defense handcuffed Alemany. The Indians converted 7 of 15 shots from the field and 1 of 6 free throws during the third quarter.
"Offensive teams don't win," Cady said. "We really have to pressure."
Once Notre Dame played tough defense, the offense found its rhythm. Notre Dame made only 5 of 14 shots in the first quarter, then hit 17 of 33 during the second and third periods.
"Once we started playing good defense, it picked up our whole game," Cady said.
Alemany had one run at Notre Dame during the second half--a 9-2 spurt late in the third quarter that cut Notre Dame's 44-32 lead to five points.
But Hicks hit two three-point shots, including one at the buzzer to give Notre Dame a 52-43 lead.
"It was a heartbreaker," Hicks said. "They played defense hard for 30 seconds and then got beat by a three-pointer. That sure is a heartbreaker."
Alemany Coach Joe Anlauf knew his team was dead as soon as he saw Hicks aim.
"You can't give a player of Hicks' caliber open three-pointers," he said. "I could have hit those."
Jones finished with a game-high 27 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter when Notre Dame led by as many as 20 points. Alemany's Jon Beauchemin scored a team-high 20 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.