By Jacob H. Pollon
For The Signal
There was no need to panic for the Hart boys basketball team Wednesday night in a CIF-Southern Section Division 2-AA first-round game.
Despite falling behind by 11 points in the first three minutes of the game, Hart was able to easily shake off the slow start and then hang on for an exciting 53-49 victory against Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks to advance to Friday’s second round against top-seeded Los Altos of Hacienda Heights.
“Coach (Tom) Kelly called timeout and told us to relax and play our game,” senior guard Tre Harrill said. “He told us it’s just a game of runs. Theirs will end and it will be our time to shine.”
Harrill scored 20 points and Carson Weiss added 12 points to lead Hart (21-7), which came in on high note after beating Saugus last Friday to claim its fifth consecutive Foothill League championship.
Harrill added five rebounds and five assists. Weiss made key baskets and was the defensive specialist for the Indians.
“Everybody played well but obviously Tre and Carson stood out tonight.” Kelly said. “Those guys stepped up for us and made things happen.”
As well as Hart played to turn around the early deficit and control the game in the middle portion, the Indians early jitters showed up late.
Notre Dame (15-12) climbed to within 51-49 and had the ball with under 15 seconds remaining with a chance to tie or go ahead. However, Ziaire Williams missed from 3-point range and Hart nailed two free throws for the final margin.
Williams, who finished with 22 points, made two free throws to cut the Hart lead to 49-45 with 3:27 remaining. Williams would late make a 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining to bring it even closer at 51-49.
“It was a little bit frantic at the end,” Harrill said. “They did a good job of speeding us up. They needed the ball back. We got rattled a little bit.”
Kelly added: “Notre Dame made some crazy shots to get close and we were not good handling the ball. Our guys came through at the end when it was absolutely needed. It’s a great win.”
Hart erased its 11-point deficit and took its first lead early in the second quarter when Weiss had a steal and made a basket for a 17-16 lead.
Notre Dame went into the locker room at halftime with a one-point lead but saw that evaporate with an 11-5 Hart run to start the third quarter. Weiss was a pest on defense all night.
“That’s my job,” Weiss said. “Play good defense and lock up the best players. Whatever I need to do to help my team. Our focus coming in was to try and stop their two guys. We had to try and take their motor out.”
Julian Rishwain scored 15 points to help Williams but no other player scored in double-digits for Notre Dame, which went 13-1 in nonleague games before going 2-10 in the rugged Mission League. Williams and Rishwain both missed nearly the entire league portion of games with injuries.
Hart has little time to rest with top-seeded Los Altos and high-scoring guard Jarrod Lucas ready to go Friday.
“We have a lot of experience on this team and we have a lot of seniors,” Harrill said. “That is two good things to have this time of year. It’s one game at a time. It’s a one game season each time out.”