Joe Mooney is the leader of Notre Dame. The senior guard doesn’t put up overwhelming numbers or impress with freakish athleticism, but he seems to always make the big play when the Dons need it, whether it’s a shot, pass, steal or rebound.
Mooney hit a three with less than two minutes as the No. 25 Dons held on for a 46-43 East Suburban Catholic win over Benet in Niles.
The Redwings held a 39-37 lead with 4:25 remaining in the game before 6-7 junior Notre Dame center Anthony D’Avanzo (12 points) connected on a floater in the lane. On Notre Dame’s next possession, Mooney (11 points, six rebounds) drove past two defenders down the baseline before dishing out a perfect bounce pass that D’Avanzo collected and laid in off the glass.
But it was at the 1:28 mark that Mooney showed the home crowd how much he means to the team. The 6-2 guard received the ball far beyond the three-point line on the right corner off a screen that failed to create much space. With a defender draped all over him, Mooney let fly anyway. The perfectly rotating ball splashed through the net and gave the Dons (13-3, 3-0) a 44-39 lead.
“I didn’t lose any confidence going into that shot, even though I struggled with my shooting tonight,” Mooney said.
Benet’s Colin Bonnett (nine points, four rebounds) was fouled on a three-point attempt with 21.6 seconds remaining, but was only able to hit one free throw. D’Avanzo, who was immediately fouled, knocked down both free throws.
James Dockery finally buried a three for Benet, but it came with 2.4 seconds left on the clock. Notre Dame’s Lucas Simon missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Benet did not have enough time to get a final shot off.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Mooney said. “It puts us at 3-0 in the conference now. It’s always big when it comes down to the final seconds like this one did.”
For Notre Dame coach Tom Les, the win is reflective of the way the team has played all season.
“We’ve played a lot of great games. That’s indicative of our schedule. That’s indicative of our league.
“When we locked in defensively on their last couple possessions, I thought we were pretty good.”
Ammar Becar added eight points and nine boards for Notre Dame. Benet’s Dan Sobolewski led all scorers with 15 points. He also pulled down six rebounds.