St. Mikes hold on to beat Notre Dame 88-80

Sam Rautins and Inaki Alvarez combined for 46 points in the opening game of the NPA Western Conference Session, helping Toronto’s St. Michael’s College to a win over Saskatchewan’s Notre Dame 88-80.

With the win, St. Michael’s improves to 5-3 on the inaugural National Preparatory Season, while Notre Dame falls to 2-7.

The Toronto squad, which was without big men Danilo Djuricic, Atik Gilao and Kobey Lam who left the game in the first quarter, was led by the two 2019 prospects Rautins and Alvarez, who kept defenders honest with a combination of sharp shooting and aggressive attacks to the rim. Rautins finished with 27 points, while Alvarez ended up with 19.

Rautins was feeling his shot throughout the game, and trusted the offence set up by Head Coach Jeff Zownir to lead them to open shots, which means that any person on the court for St. Mike’s could have a big game depending on what the defence gives them.

“With our team, we have a group of guys that could go off on any day, someone is always ready to step up, and we were just ready to play,” said Rautins after the game.

Rautins and Alvarez represent a young core of players for St. Mike’s that have grown up in the system and will have to take over after Harvard committed Djuricic departs after this season. But with another year together under their belt Sam knows the team is improving as a unit.

“Our team chemistry has to be one thing that has improved, we are always hanging out off the court, and we are started to get a feel for each other on the court as well.”

Alvarez used a healthy mix of shooting and driving the ball to find his success in the game, but when asked what his role needs to be for this team to be playing at the highest level, he immediately answered with one word: Defence.

“Defence. It has to be defence first, talking on defence, I have to be a leader on defence. And then setting up the ball on offence and being a leader all the way down the floor.”

Jashon Henry led the scoring effort for Notre Dame in the loss, finishing with 23 points after heating up in the second half. After a slow start, Henry took advantage of the undersized Blue Raiders after the break and started asserting his dominance in the paint, collecting 21 of his points in the second half.

Notre Dame led by as many as eight in the first half, largely in part to the energy provided by Fo-Fo Adetogun, who contributed 21 points and ran the point well for most of the game. Despite Fo-Fo’s energy, Rautins and Alvarez came out on fire and ready to lead St. Mikes from the guard spots, taking back the lead just before half 36-34.

Adetogun is the cornerstone of the Notre Dame offence, and was relied on to create opportunities for his teammates all game. Using his high energy and strong on the ball presence, Fo-Fo was able to create both for himself and for his teammates.

To start the second half, St. Mike’s extended their lead thanks to Kyle Duke-Simpson taking his fifth steal of the game down the other way to stretch the Raiders lead to 10.That was the largest lead St. Mike’s would see in the second half before Henry turned up the heat and brought Notre Dame back even with the home team at 70 apiece midway through the frame.

With just over five minutes left to play in the 4th, Notre Dame was dished a devastating blow as Adetogun was served his fifth foul and was sent to the bench, and along with it Notre Dame’s leadership from the point.

Shol Ayach did a solid job of trying to stimulate the offence after the departure of Fo-Fo, finishing with 21 points of his own, but it wasn’t enough to stop the barrage of shooting from St. Mike’s.

The rest of the game watched Notre Dame attempt to play catch up as St. Mike’s maintained their lead with poise and finished off with the eight point victory.

In today’s games, which go down at Oakville’s Sheridan College, St. Mike’s get a break from NPA action, while Notre Dame takes on 3 Kings from Windsor, Ontario at 12pm, and London Basketball Academy at 8pm.

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