WEST HAVEN — Alex Puzone couldn’t believe his eyes. Left wide open with the clock ticking away, the Notre Dame senior had one thing on his mind.
Left all alone in the right corner, Puzone drained a 3-pointer as the clock expired in regulation, giving Notre Dame a thrilling 55-53 comeback victory over West Haven at Notre Dame Saturday afternoon.
Puzone’s shot allowed Notre Dame to erase a 10-point deficit with 3 minutes remaining and lifted the Green Knights to 4-0.
“We never quit,” Puzone said. “We knew we had to get a little momentum going and keep the energy level up.
“The play was designed to get me the shot. I caught the ball with 2 seconds left and I was able to make the shot.”
After losing a heartbreaker to Xavier in their previous game, the Westies (2-4) looked to have the game in hand when Thomas Brim’s bucket with 3 minutes, 18 seconds remaining gave West Haven a 48-38 lead.
“That is two games in a row now we lost down the stretch,” West Haven coach Harry Bosley said. “We can’t hang on. We outplayed them the whole game.
“We need more leadership down the stretch. We need someone who wants the ball in their hands.”
The Green Knights put the pressure on and West Haven’s Kenneth Graham fouled out a short time later. With all the momentum on their side, the Green Knights capitalized, closing the game on a 17-5 run to steal the victory.
“It (winning shot) is a called play,” Notre Dame coach Jason Shea said. “We found the open man. It was a big play for us.”
Former Westie Tahj Eaddy started the rally with a 3-pointer, before West Haven’s Gary Dudley answered with a basket. Lonnie Blackwell and Dudley exchanged 3-pointers as West Haven led 53-44 with 2:19 remaining.
“We turned the ball over and did not get key rebounds,” Bosley said. “We did not box out. We did not do the little things at the end.”
West Haven could not close the deal.
Puzone’s basket and foul cut the deficit to 53-47 seconds later and a West Haven turnover was followed by a basket by Kalane Ham to get Notre Dame within 53-49 with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Puzone, who led Notre Dame with 20 points, nailed a 3 just 17 seconds later and Notre Dame was within 53-52.
West Haven could not control the ball and the Green Knights had two more possessions and a missed free-throw opportunity, but never gave up.
“I thought the guys fought hard,” Shea said. “This is a huge win for us.”
After an uneventful first half that saw the Westies lead 8-6 after one quarter and 19-18 at the half, the game picked up in the second half.
Two buckets by Ham had Notre Dame on top 22-19, before Eric Singleton connected for six straight points to give the Westies a 25-22 lead.
A 3-pointer by Brim gave the Westies a 34-28 lead with 2:36 left in the third quarter, before a basket by Dudley and two free throws by Brim gave West Haven a 38-30 lead after three quarters of play.
“This is a great win for us,” Puzone said. “We talk about winning the division. We know we have to sweep these games. This is a great start for us.”
Ham had 17 points and Eaddy finished with 15 for Notre Dame.
Singleton led West Haven with 14 points, while Brim had 11 and Dudley finished with 10.