If the Grundy County boys' basketball team had a theme song, it could be "Don't Stop Believing." Tuesday evening, the Journey for the Yellow Jackets took them to Notre Dame, and their ride won't stop there.
They battled to a 72-68 victory over the Fighting Irish, who had won the two regular-season meetings by a combined 69 points. With just its eighth win of the season, Grundy advances to the semifinals to face second-seeded Signal Mountain on Thursday.
Jacob Campbell, Levi Miller and Trevor Hampton each scored 17 points for Grundy, while point guard Austyn Cooper handled the Notre Dame pressure with 12 assists, eight rebounds and nine points before fouling out with 2:20 remaining in the game.
"Coach [Justin Bryant] told us before the game that we had to keep our composure and our poise," Cooper said. "In practice he had our quickest, most aggressive players grab our jerseys and pull us down to get us ready for tonight.
"These past few games we've been playing a lot better, but this is definitely the biggest win of my career."
It took a while for the visitors to settle into the contest, as Notre Dame scored the first seven points. Grundy started finding Campbell on the wing open for 3-pointers, as well as throwing the ball inside to Hampton and 6-foot-7 Trevor Rheal for baskets. The Yellow Jackets led 20-19 after a quarter despite nine turnovers, then made a 9-3 spurt to end the first half with a 39-30 advantage.
They led by seven heading into the final period, but Notre Dame sliced the deficit to 59-57. Grundy answered with a 9-2 run.
The Irish were forced to foul, and although Miller missed three consecutive front ends of one-and-ones, he hit one with 6.9 seconds left to seal the win.
"We've been getting better over the past few games," Coach Bryant said. "I'm just so happy for the six seniors in the program."
The Irish were 8-for-12 at the line in the fourth quarter. Stedmon Ford finished with 25 points in his final game, adding eight assists, six rebounds and five steals, while Kareem Orr had 19 points and five steals and Kealy Green scored 13 to go with 10 rebounds.
"That wasn't the Grundy team that we saw before," Notre Dame coach J.P. Nermun said. "We knew they were feeling it lately, but they were taking shots like they knew they would make them.
"We didn't back down and had a very mature response when things didn't go our way. I'm very proud of the guys."