By Mark Gregory
Waukegan jumped to an early 19-point lead after the first-quarter and never looked back as the No. 6 seed sectional hosts upset No. 2 Notre Dame 75-63 in the Waukegan Sectional semifinal on March 8.
“They came out ready and we were not ready. I thought they played really hard and really well the whole game,” said Notre Dame coach Tom Les of Waukegan. “Every time we kind of got back into it, they made a run. At halftime, for being down 20 or 22, to cut it to 10, I thought we were in pretty good shape.
“We had the first possession and we missed and they scored and then after a couple minutes it got back to 15 and then back to 20. With three minutes to go, it was 13 and we had the ball and had a chance if we could have made a shot. (Waukegan) played really well and really hard and deserved to win.”
Senior guard Jeameril Wilson knew it was the Bulldogs’ opening run the eventually doomed Notre Dame.
“It’s all about the first punch,” he said. “You can’t put yourself in a hole and expect to get out of it and that was what we did.”
The Dons (25-6) were paced by Wilson, who led Notre Dame with 21 points, while fellow senior Matt Stritzel added 19 points.
“He has been my partner in crime since sophomore year,” Wilson said of Stritzel. “The bumped both of us up to varsity and we have been getting each other better every single day. Stritzel is practically my brother.”
Les recognizes the impact the duo had on the program.
“Matt Stritzel and Jeameril Wilson, won regional titles their sophomore, junior and senior year,” Les said. “They won a ton of championships. They were helpful in us winning our league a couple years ago and Christmas tournaments and Thanksgiving tournaments. They have had one heck of a run. We have a lot of gaps to fill.”
With several underclassmen on the roster this year, Les feels that there are pieces in place to do just that.
“The seniors have a huge empty feeling and the juniors and sophomores and one freshman that was in that locker room have to understand that their time here goes by quickly and they have to make the most of it.”