SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION III-A : Confident Notre Dame Relishes Underdog Role
Perhaps Notre Dame High should imagine trailing by a few points before its Southern Section Division III-A final tonight against San Dimas.
In a way, the Knights are.
Notre Dame (23-6) comes into its first Southern Section title game at 8 p.m. at Cal Poly Pomona as the third-seeded team. San Dimas (25-3), seeded No. 1, advanced to the final last season, losing to La Canada, 62-53.
“I think that’s better for us,” Notre Dame senior Ryan Stromsborg said. “We are expected to lose.”
The Knights, who have earned a berth in the state Division III playoffs regardless of tonight’s outcome, have been forced to come from behind in their last two playoff victories. In a quarterfinal against Rancho Verde, Notre Dame played poorly for most of the game, Knight Coach Mick Cady said, and trailed by four at the start of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame eventually won, 56-54.
In their semifinal against La Canada, the Knights fell behind by 10 in the first half, mostly because the Spartans hit six consecutive three-point baskets in the first quarter. Notre Dame won that game, 58-52.
“We always thought we were going to win, even when we were losing,” said 6-foot-5 senior swingman Monte Marcaccini, who is averaging 22.7 points in three playoff games.
Notre Dame also has been boosted by point guard Craig Johnson, who is averaging 12.0 points in the playoffs, and 6-7 freshman Eddie Miller, who joined the team for the final three games of the regular season after missing most of the year because of a back injury. Miller has averaged 8.0 points in the postseason.
“It’s been real big when you have a player like him coming off the bench, getting rebounds and points,” Marcaccini said. “He can do nothing but help.”
The Saint offense is led by 6-foot-3 junior guard Jeremy Veal, who is averaging about 22 points, Coach Gary Prestesater said. Senior forward Brad Alley (6-2), who averages about 15 points and seven rebounds, is the only other returning starter.
Cady said San Dimas, the Valle Vista League champion, may have an advantage because its goal is winning the championship, not merely making the title game.
“After they won (their semifinal) I’m sure they weren’t celebrating, whereas we may fall prone to just being happy to be there,” Cady said. “That didn’t help the Buffalo Bills very often.”