Two traditional Valley-area heavyweights squared off Tuesday night in what could be their last meeting on a basketball floor, but it turned out to be a flyweight with pencil-thin arms who won the game at Crespi High.
Crespi defeated Notre Dame, 72-61, in the last Del Rey League game between the two schools, on the strength of the free-throw shooting of Matt Turner, a 6-foot, 160-pound senior guard. Turner made all 13 free throws he attempted, including 12 in the fourth quarter.
"We put them out with a punch," Turner said.
Turner sent Notre Dame reeling out of the Celts' gym indefinitely. Notre Dame is leaving the Del Rey League after this season to join the San Fernando Valley league. The schools are not scheduled to meet for at least two years.
"It's a shame these two teams won't play again," Crespi Coach Paul Muff said. "It's kind of sad."
Muff probably wanted to drop Notre Dame from his team's schedule two weeks ago when the Knights routed Crespi, 72-50, at Notre Dame. "They basically embarrassed us down there and we wanted to get some respect," Muff said.
And the Celts did.
"They really played their game," Notre Dame Coach Mick Cady said. "They had a game plan and they really did it."
The Celts' strategy included handling Notre Dame's trapping defense and playing tougher defense themselves.
"We came out a lot more aggressive and we played to our capabilities," Muff said. "We played a lot more aggressive. We played the way I thought we could."
Crespi led, 14-13, at the end of the first quarter and then held Notre Dame to four shots in the second quarter as the Celts took a 32-24 halftime lead.
Crespi led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter before Notre Dame closed the deficit to 44-39 toward the end of the quarter. Two free throws by Bruce Heicke with 6:34 left in the game brought Notre Dame to within four points, 49-45, but Turner, who finished with 15 points and 12 assists, made 12 free throws in the last 6:33 to seal the win.
Crespi improved to 12-9 overall, 4-4 in league play. Notre Dame (10-8, 6-2) fell out of a first-place tie with Loyola in the league standings.
"This is pretty satisfying to beat them," Muff said. "This was a good win just because they beat us so bad last time."
Crespi had a lot more going for it this time. Forward John Davis, who missed the first game because of illness, scored 17 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. And Notre Dame played in a daze after dazzling the Celts the last time.
"Our concentration wasn't there," Cady said. "I think we thought winning was going to come easy. Crespi reminded us that it's not easy."
Two Knight mistakes led to late-quarter points for Crespi.
At the end of the second quarter, Notre Dame's defense let Crespi run the ball upcourt with six seconds left and guard Mike Tilkian made a three-point shot at the buzzer.
At the end of the third quarter, Bill Foudy had a clear lane to the basket and tipped in a missed shot to beat the buzzer and give the Celts a 46-39 lead. Notre Dame let Crespi have the final shot when the Knights' Ken Hicks missed a three-point shot with 20 seconds left.
"It was one of those games where everything went our way," Muff said.
Heicke left the game after injuring his left ankle near the end of the fourth quarter. The three-year starter went up for a rebound and landed on another player's foot. The ankle was wrapped in ice and he was carried off the court on a stretcher and taken to Tarzana Medical Center for X-rays.
Cady called it a "bad sprain."
Heicke finished with 14 points.