St. Patrick beats Notre Dame, Austin Freeman is the hero

St. Patrick's Austin Freeman (24) gets a steal and gets to the basket, Friday 02-08-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
St. Patrick's Austin Freeman (24) gets a steal and gets to the basket, Friday 02-08-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

A sold-out gym on Belmont. Two loud, surging student sections hurling chants back and forth. And it isn’t just general sports chanting, it’s the kind of biting stuff that only kids that grow up together know about.

These are not ideal conditions in which to step to the free throw line with the game on the line.

St. Patrick guard Austin Freeman was not fazed. The senior had been pulling the strings throughout the game. He calmly drained two free throws with 3.4 seconds left to give the Shamrocks a 40-38 win against visiting Notre Dame on Friday.

“I blocked everything out and just focused on the free throws,” Freeman said. “If you can do that then it is simple. Make them to win the game.”

Freeman has become one of the city’s elite guards this season, posting several 30-plus point games.

“When [leading scorer] Jakob Medina got hurt and some of my other friends left the team I knew I had to step up and show people who I am,” Freeman said.

Freeman finished with 15 points, a game-high nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.

“It would be nice to have a senior to go to like that,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Clancy said. “He’s had a great year. He’s a tough guy to stop. All the credit goes to him.”

Joe Fanning, a 6-6, 320-pound junior, is St. Patrick’s other major threat. He’s an excellent football player with an untraditional body for basketball. But he has quick feet, soft hands and a basketball mind.

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“This was just awesome, just a great environment,” Fanning said. “St. Pat’s is obviously better than Notre Dame.”

Fanning had six points and five rebounds. His presence as a threat in the post created several opportunities for his teammates.

“His leadership, you just feel secure with him out on the court,” St. Patrick coach Mike Bailey said. “He’s a basketball player in a football player’s body. He has great basketball instincts, knows how to play, plays for the team. He just adds so many intangibles.”

Sophomore Caleb Corro scored eight for the Shamrocks (15-10, 3-4 East Suburban Catholic), who forced Notre Dame to shoot from the perimeter. The Dons were 11-for-31 from three-point range. They only made one two-point field goal, a dunk from sophomore Anthony Sayles in the first quarter.

“They weren’t looking for anything inside, everything was going to be three-pointers,” Bailey said. “We felt they would do that, they are good a shooting team and wanted to spread us out.

Sophomore Troy D’Amico scored 18 points for Notre Dame (16-10, 5-2), all on three-pointers. His four threes were all of the Dons’ offense in the fourth quarter. He tied the game on a clutch three with 53 seconds to play.

“D’Amico made a couple threes early in the first quarter and we failed to find him in the second and third quarter,” Clancy said. “That’s on me. I have to emphasize that to our guys. Then when we did find him he made some big shots and got us right back in the game.”

Sayles finished with eight points and five rebounds.

“It’s always an interesting environment coming here,” Clancy said. “It’s great for the fans, the students and the communities. I’m very proud of our effort and our energy. Our guys played extremely hard.”

Notre Dame has been in and out of the rankings this season but St. Patrick hasn’t received much attention.

“We’ve been playing really good since Christmas,” Bailey said. “We have played a very competitive schedule and been in just about every game.”

“This is a huge win,” Fanning said. “It sets up our whole season, gets us on a high heading into the final weeks and the playoffs. We grew up with all these kids. It’s always a great battle.”

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