By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND – You know the old saying: No rest for the wicked.
Well, in basketball usage it can be modified to: No rest for the Irish!
Notre Dame’s senior boys hoops team is certainly being put to the test.
The Irish stole a come-from-behind win over Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs in a semi-final matchup in the Tribune Tournament earlier this month, then next evening won a hard-fought, thrilling game with Centennial Cougars to capture the tournament championship.
This was an impressive debut for new coach and Mike Rao-successor, Mark Gallagher. His team withstood almost unrelenting pressure from the Cougars in the game’s second half and maintained its composure even as a healthy lead was whittled away. It was a win all could be proud of, especially the coach.
Then, last week, the Irish met St. Paul Patriots in the friendly confines of Dillon Hall, a storied high school basketball shrine here in Niagara. Both teams went into the matchup with undefeated records and as Gallagher said, it was a clash for first place in the new Catholic league.
The Patriots left Welland with a 58-54 win.
The Irish now meet Denis Morris Reds Tuesday, January 24, in St. Catharines, the final game on the schedule prior to the start of exams. It’s a double header, with the Junior Irish tipping off at 3:30pm followed by the seniors at 5.
Cross-border shopping won’t be on the minds of Gallagher’s lads next month but cross-border shooting will.
They will play Lockport High School in Lockport, N.Y., February 2, with the juniors also seeing action against Lockport juniors. Then on February 4, the senior Irish visit Niagara Falls High School also across the international border.
This should be good preparation for the upcoming Catholic Classic or All-Catholic on February 10-11.
Gallagher said the tournament draw isn’t available yet, but he does know that Notre Dame will play host to Friday, February 10 games.
The Catholic Classic can’t be underestimated when it comes to the grand scheme of things, the freshman coach explained in e-mail correspondence.
It’s important because “ND is one of the original six Catholic high schools in the province.”
Gallagher is a graduate of one of them, Cathedral in Hamilton. The others are St. Mike’s, Toronto, St. John’s, Brantford, St. Pius X, Ottawa, and St. Pat’s, Sarnia.
“The All-Catholic started long before full funding as a celebration of Catholic education and teams came together to compete and celebrate Catholic education,” wrote Gallagher. “In the days when we were not sure if Catholic education would continue (it) was a celebration of our schools and their excellence. People should know this! It is an honour for us to play in this tournament.”
Watch for more Notre Dame senior basketball coverage here on the blog!