BATAVIA — Last season as a sophomore, Notre Dame guard Gabe Macdonald played a somewhat third fiddle to seniors Ryan Moffat and Nico Zambito but if Wednesday night is any indication, he will be what runs the Fighting Irish motor this winter.
Macdonald scored 16 of his team-high 23 points in the first half as Notre Dame opened up a huge lead on visiting Kendall before the Fighting Irish were forced to hang on late after some sloppy play for a 73-64 season-opening win.
“This is what we’ve been doing in the preseason. We play really well for stretches and then we get stretches where we don’t execute,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Rapone said. “We didn’t execute at all on the offensive end late and kept giving them chances.”
Spencer Misiti added 13 of his 18 points in the opening two quarters as Notre Dame took a commanding 46-24 lead into halftime and eventually stretched that to 26 points midway through the third before Nathan Warters almost single-handedly brought Kendall all the way back.
Warters dropped in a game-high 29 points, including 19 in the second half when Notre Dame turned the ball over 16 times and allowed the Eagles to claw their way back into it, eventually cutting the Fighting Irish lead to seven with under three minutes to play.
But a bucket from Keith Szczepanski stemmed the tide and free throws from Zach Cocking and Misiti in the final minute helped Notre Dame close it out.
Szczepanski added 11 points and six rebounds and Mason Randall had a strong night off of the bench as he finished with 10 points and four rebounds for Notre Dame.
Macdonald was not just scoring as he was all over the place, adding 13 rebounds, nine assists and four steals, while Misiti added seven rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals in the win.
“I’m happy for the first game to get out of it and Kendall is going to win a lot of games,” Rapone said.
Kendall held an early 4-1 lead two minutes in before Notre Dame got rolling and took control. A Macdonald inside bucket started the Fighting Irish on an 18-0 run over the next three minutes, capped with a Randall bucket down low off of a nice dish from Macdonald.
Misiti had eight big points during the spurt and the Notre Dame lead wouldn’t be in single digits again until late in the third.
Warters scored eight straight points over a span of less than a minute to pull Kendall to within eight but a Randall bucket at the end of the first pulled the Fighting Irish lead out to 26-14.
The lead was 11 when Misiti hit another three after an Andrew Moore steal and Macdonald scored on a drive to the bucket to pull the lead out to 37-19 midway through the second.
Notre Dame then used a 9-2 spurt late in the second — with six from Macdonald — and eventually led 22 at the half.
“I think he knows this year that he is one of the main guys,” Rapone said of Macdonald. “And he’s playing like that. I think last year he deferred to Nico and Moffat and when you’re a sophomore that happens. But I saw this the whole preseason, I knew he was going to be a force.”
Midway through the third, a Misiti triple started Notre Dame on an 8-0 run that would see the lead to balloon to 26 twice — once at 58-32 and again at 60-34 — before the Eagles started to make a push.
Warters bookended an 11-3 run over the final two minutes of the third with a 3-pointer and a layup as Kendall closed to within 18 at 63-45.
A Warters three-point play 13 seconds into the final frame then started Kendall on a 10-2 run, capped with a Mason Kuhn put-back, and it was all of a sudden just a 10-point game at 65-55.
“We missed a lot of makeable shots and we turned the ball over a number of times and once the momentum starts swinging it’s tough to get it back,” Rapone said. “We got a little tired, we weren’t making our defensive drops as well as we were but we played really well for two-and-a-half quarters.”
But a pair of buckets from Szczepanski in the next two minutes would be enough to keep the Eagles at bay, even when Warters put back his own miss to pull Kendall to within 67-60 with 3:50 left.
Notre Dame would then hold the Eagles to just one made bucket the rest of the game to hold on.
Kuhn, John Rath and Michael Gardner all finished with nine points on the night in the losing effort, with Kuhn pulling down 10 boards and Rath and Gardner each grabbing three. Warters added six rebounds and three assists.
Zach Cocking snatched eight boards to go with his four points, while Moore had seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals for Notre Dame, which will be at rival Elba on Friday night.
“It’s going to have to be an offensive day tomorrow (at practice),” Rapone said. “Elba historically plays a 2-3 zone that we struggled a little bit with that tonight in the second half.”
Kendall, which fell to 0-2, will host Lyndonville on Friday night.
LYNDONVILLE 78, ALBION 59
Zach Johnson hit three 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 26 points as the Tigers cruised to 2-0.
Nathan Poler added 16 points for Lyndonville, which outscored the Purple Eagles 23-9 in the second quarter to take a 44-23 lead at the break.
Also for the Tigers, Nathan Dillenbeck netted 15 points and Nathan Hydock chipped in with nine.
Bryce Pritchard dropped a team-high 23 points in the loss for Albion, while Deyonci Farley had 12 and Xavier Cornick added 10; Albion fell to 1-1.
GREECE ODYSSEY 91, ALEXANDER 54
No information was provided by Alexander head coach.
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