PONTIAC >> Looking to remain unbeaten on the young season, Auburn Hills Avondale found itself in a bit of trouble late in the third quarter against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, but used a strong effort on both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter to fend off a hot-shooting Fighting Irish squad.
After falling behind late in the third quarter, Avondale would outscore Notre Dame Prep 23-7 in the final 8:30 of the game as the Yellow Jackets pulled away for a 49-34 win to stay perfect through the first three games of the year.
Avondale head coach Bob Lees said that the biggest difference for his team in the fourth quarter was simply that some of the same shots and looks his team had in the first three quarters finally started to fall in the final eight minutes.
“I think the ball started going in the basket,” he said. “We had some shots early that didn’t go in and I think we stayed consistent with those shots. We made them and things started rolling a little bit.”
Trailing 20-14 coming out of halftime, Notre Dame Prep (1-2) would manage to erase that deficit early on in the second half behind a 7-2 run capped off by a Malorie Wilson putback to cut the Avondale lead down to just one, 22-21.
The Fighting Irish would then grab their first lead of the second half behind a pair of Sarah Stewart 3-pointers, the first to tie the game at 24-24 with 1:40 left in the third quarter and the second to put Notre Dame Prep on top, 27-26 with 30 seconds left.
Notre Dame Prep head coach Tom Kocik credited Stewart’s shooting and his team’s defense for being able to take the lead and also said he was pleased with his team’s overall performance against a quality Avondale squad.
“Sarah’s amazing, she’s the catalyst for our offense, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “But defensively we had it going in the third quarter, everyone doing their assignments, just applying the pressure. They’re a good team, Avondale is, they’re big, strong, athletic, they’re tough to cover, but up through the third quarter, we were there.”
Stewart paced Notre Dame Prep with a game-high 17 points on the night, while Wilson chipped in with eight points in the loss.
But Avondale (3-0) would respond after losing the lead as an Angelina 3-pointer would help give the Yellow Jackets a 30-27 lead after three quarters.
Avondale would then push its lead to 34-29 early in the fourth quarter after baskets from Keiori Lee and Taniah Jackson, but Notre Dame Prep would continue to stick around as Stewart’s fifth triple of the night again cut the deficit back down to just two, 34-32.
Olivia Russell led the way for Avondale with 13 points on the night and Wilson finished with 11 points in the win.
From there, the Yellow Jackets’ defense and transition offense would take over as Avondale began pulling away with a 14-0 run to extend the lead to 48-32 following five straight points from Lee to all but seal the win for Avondale with just over three minutes remaining.
While Lees admitted that he would have liked his team to be bit more effective on the defensive end, he felt his team’s defense in the fourth quarter was key in a number of ways, including allowing his team to get out in transition on the fast break.
“We ran pretty well tonight and we did get some easy baskets,” he said. “In the press, we turned them over quite a bit, we weren’t as efficient as we’d like to be, but sometimes you have those nights.”