CLARKSBURG — As good a season as Notre Dame is enjoying and as deserving as the Fighting Irish are of the No. 1 ranking in Class A, there is one missing ingredient from this being a dominant team.
The Irish haven’t really developed a killer instinct yet.
At no point in Wednesday’s 77-48 victory against Madonna (3-10) at Angelo Basile Court, were the Irish (11-1) in danger of losing. However, after opening up a lead of more than 20 points midway through the second quarter, Notre Dame took its foot off the pedal and the lack of intensity didn’t set well with coach Jarrod West.
“They have to understand that when we get in a situation like this, we aren’t playing against the opposing team, we are playing to make ourselves better,” West said. “Most of these players are too young to remember the state tournament games against Magnolia and St. Joseph where we had leads in the fourth quarter and lost.
“I think about those two games every day. And I get it, I’ve been in games like this where you jump out to a big lead like that and you relax a bit. But you have to stay focused.”
Gabe Zummo and Tyler Hardesty each hit a 3-pointer in the game’s opening moments and Zummo had an assist on a lob to Joel Maurer to make it 8-0 before the Blue Dons knew what hit them.
By the end of the first, Notre Dame was up 23-6. Midway through the second, the lead had increased to 30-7 and the first four players off Notre Dame’s bench had already seen quality minutes. But when the starting lineup came back on the court to close out the half, the effort wasn’t quite the same as it was to start the game.
Coach West’s son, freshman point guard Jaidyn West, had an uncharacteristic tough stretch where he turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions and lost his man on defense that led to an easy Madonna basket.
“I called a timeout and I got on him a little bit,” coach West said “I told him, ‘You’re the point guard, you have to be a leader out there.’”
On the first play of the third quarter, West stole the ball and went in for a layup, his first points of the game, and his Dad immediately called another timeout.
“I took that timeout to tell him, ‘See, that’s what we need out of you,’ coach West said. “If you can’t get a shot to fall, go play defense, go get a steal, just play hard.”
West hit 3-pointers on each of Notre Dame’s next three possessions to open up a 50-22 lead.
Nate Helm followed with a layup, Hardesty buried another 3 and scored on a layup of his own and Elijah Goodman scored on strong take to the basket from the foul line to make it a 30-point game at 59-29.
Overall, Notre Dame got its usual balanced attack on offense. Six different players scored at least nine points. Hardesty and West led the way with 13 apiece. West also had eight assists and four steals.
Maurer added 12 points, while Zummo and Goodman each had 10. Helm finished with nine.
Another Notre Dame player who had a strong performance off the bench was Elias Gordon, who finished with four points, four rebounds, two assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
“I told Elias the other day that I need to get him in more,” coach West said. “He might be our most active defender. He plays hard, he runs the floor. Tonight, it wasn’t that he didn’t do anything he doesn’t always do, he just had more of an opportunity.”
Evan Boniti led Madonna with a game-high 15 points. Gavin Dietrich added 11 points, three assists and four steals.
Next up for the Blue Dons is a road game against Tyler Consolidated on Saturday.
The top-ranked Irish will be on the road Friday to face Tucker County then back home the following day for Southern Garrett, Md.