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No. 2 Practice Squad upsets two-time defending champs Finnigan’s

and | Wednesday, May 3, 2017

After the Bookstore Basketball championship was pushed back to Tuesday, there was an additional two days for anticipation of the rematch of last year’s semifinal between this year’s top-two teams to build. The anticipation continued for an additional 40 minutes, as the tight game between two-time defending champions No. 1 Finnigan’s and No. 2 Practice Squad raged on into an overtime period, with Practice Squad ultimately walking away with a 30-28 win.

The game began with Notre Dame men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey throwing up the jump ball, which was won by Finnigan’s’ Patrick Mazza. A graduate student walk-on of the Irish varsity team who stands at 6-foot-10, Mazza was a force on the boards all night, racking up rebounds and blocks.

The game began with both teams going back and forth. The cold conditions and outdoor rims made it difficult for either team to get anything going shooting early on, leading to the majority of the baskets being scored from under the rim.

Practice Squad graduate student John Lammers scored two buckets early, including a lefty finish at the rim around the towering Mazza to put his team up 4-3. This lead was short lived, however, as Finnigan’s graduate student Brian Spahn led his team on a 6-1 run to take a 9-5 lead.

Practice Squad junior and captain Reed Hunnicutt said the slow start was a definite obstacle for his team to overcome, but it was the resilience it showed throughout that ultimately helped propel the team to victory.

“I think the fact that we just continued to play defense and really just grind it out, because obviously against a really good team like that with a lot of guys … we started out pretty slow,” Hunnicutt said. “Once we got it to the one-possession game, it was really back-and-forth, and I think the thing that kind of set us apart was our resilience throughout the end of the game.”

Practice Squad would battle back once again, though, riding aggressive play from Lammers and junior Matt Mitan to a 10-10 tie. Mazza, who was a tough assignment in the post all day, then drew a foul and converted his free throw to give Finnigan’s an 11-10 lead going into halftime.

The Notre Dame Pom Squad performed at halftime, and Notre Dame freshman guard T.J. Gibbs performed a dance alongside the squad.

Hunnicutt said the crowd participation and environment helped egg his team on throughout the tightly-contested game.

“It was actually wonderful,” Hunnicutt said of the environment. “Obviously, we knew a lot of people there, and there were people from both sides kind of chirping up. I think that was really grounding and motivating for a lot of us — it kept us engaged in the game.”

The second half began with stagnant play caused by a large number of fouls. The wind picked up early on, too, and both teams had to deal with dropping temperatures as the sun went down. Both teams were forced to feed the ball inside and put up inside shots as the temperature dropped below 40 degrees.

A hard collision between Mitan and Finnigan’s senior Conor Colpoys led to a bit of testiness between the two teams. Both teams resolved the issue without conflict, but play grew more physical down the stretch, with both teams getting on the ground for loose balls. Colpoys hit a free throw late to put Finnigan’s up 18-16. The teams battled back and forth, and Mitan hit a turnaround in the lane to knot the score at 20.

Practice Squad hit two free throws to make the score 22-21, but Finnigan’s battled back.

Hunnicutt was a force driving the ball all night long, and he hit a big free throw to put his team up 25-24. In response, Colpoys drew an and-1, then made an impressive move to the rim to make it 27-26.

Finnigan’s senior Dan Brndjar made a lefty move to the rim to put Finnigan’s up 28-27, but this was the final point his team would score on the night. Practice Squad worked hard to battle to 29-28, then Lammers pulled up from well beyond the arc for the win, sending the bookstore courts into a frenzy.

“It feels fantastic. We fought the whole game, and it was really hard to get to that point,” Hunnicutt said of the win. “We probably could’ve given up, but we were pretty much like a bunch of warriors, and we weren’t about to give up.”
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About Elizabeth Greason

Elizabeth is a senior studying civil engineering from New York, NY (yes, the actual city). She is a proud resident assistant in McGlinn Hall and is a die-hard Mets and Giants fan. She is currently serving as assistant managing editor of The Observer and she also has an obsession with golf that is bordering on unhealthy.

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