MORGANTOWN — Elijah Goodman made two free throws with 10.8 seconds left to give the Notre Dame Fighting Irish a two-possession lead and cement a massive 63-61 road win over the Trinity Warriors on Thursday night.
“I told Elijah two days ago, he’s probably been our best all-star in his role,” Notre Dame coach Jarrod West said. “Coming off of the bench as a sixth man, he’s a point center. He passes the ball well. He made a crucial assist to Joel (Maurer) late.”
Gabe Zummo scored 24 points, often on hard drives that resulted in finishes or fouls, to go with nine rebounds, four steals and three assists for ND (6-0).
Goodman finished with 12 points and six rebounds and Nate Helm tallied 11 points and seven rebounds for the Irish.
The Warriors (7-1) made 11 3-pointers and were led by Joel Robertson’s 17 points, 14 from Briston Bennett and 11 out of Logo Zervos.
“They were shooting like the Golden State Warriors tonight,” coach West said of Trinity. “Seven of (the 3s) were contested.”
Notre Dame controlled out of the gates as Helm scored a quick six and the Irish built a 10-2 lead, holding the Warriors without a field goal for the first 4 1/2 minutes of the game.
“This was Nate’s best game,” coach West said. “And Elijah finished it out. That’s the beauty of this team. We have multiple options, multiple people that can help us.”
Trinity made up for lost time with a vengeance, though, as Robertson, Zervos and Fletcher Hartsock hit 3s to bring the Warriors within a point at 12-11.
It was a 17-all contest after one quarter.
Trinity took a 23-19 lead on back-to-back Mark Spruill 3s and went up eight at 31-23 on two Robertson free throws at the 4:42 mark.
Notre Dame scored five of the next seven points to get within five at 33-28 and trailed by that margin, 35-30, at the break.
The Irish moved with a basket at 41-39 on a Helm jumper with 5:20 to go in the third quarter.
Down 50-46, Notre Dame closed the third quarter with a layup from Goodman, a stickback from Zummo and a layup by Zummo to go in front, 52-50, the Irish’s first lead since 19-17.
“We press a lot early to try and wear teams down and I know that they made some shots, but we’re a little deeper, so I think it wore them down a little bit,” coach West said.
“We had to go to our bench,” Trinity coach John Fowkes said. “Logo and Fletch were both in foul trouble and we had to go small in the post. They had two legit 6-4, 6-5 kids in there. I thought that was the difference. They got some offensive boards and Zummo got a little loose.”
A Jaidyn West layup and Zummo’s 3-point play extended the run to 11-0 with 6:35 to go.
“Gabe had his big-boy pants on tonight,” coach West said. “We had to run the offense through him.”
After Goodman set up Maurer’s layup, Trinity closed within two points at 61-59 on a Robertson 3-point play with 1:56 left, but, after the Irish missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on their next trip, the Warriors could not convert on two solid looks on their next trip.
Goodman caught the rebound, drew the foul, made the front end of his one-and-one, then hit the second.
Trinity scored a layup at the buzzer for the final score.
“Most important game of the regular season,” coach West said. “Especially to win here. As a coach, you always think about seeding. We want everything to come through Notre Dame’s gym.”
Notre Dame’s perfect start will face a stern test at defending Class AA state champion Chapmanville on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Sports editor Michael Minnich can be reached at 304-626-1441, by e-mail at email@example.com, or on Twitter @michaelminnich.