2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 3/6/2018 10:54 PM

Benet thwarts Bartlett upset bid

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  • Benet's Ben Cooney (5) drives around Bartlett's Byron Price (33) during the Class 4A Glenbard East sectional semifinals boys basketball game on March 6, 2018.

      Benet's Ben Cooney (5) drives around Bartlett's Byron Price (33) during the Class 4A Glenbard East sectional semifinals boys basketball game on March 6, 2018.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
By Gregg Voss
Daily Herald Correspondent

Whew.

Benet was well aware of Bartlett's giant-slaying capabilities coming into the teams' Class 4A boys basketball sectional semifinal Tuesday night at Glenbard East.

After all, the Hawks had dispatched sixth-seeded Batavia and third-seeded Wheaton Warrenville South in regional play en route to Lombard and a date with the Redwings.

True to form, Bartlett made things miserable for second-seeded Benet in the fourth quarter Tuesday, leveraging a full-court press that resulted in 8 turnovers. They even put together an 11-0 run that put the Hawks within striking distance of the lead.

But in the end it was Benet that had the last laugh, prevailing 47-41 and advancing to Friday's sectional final against Willowbrook, which defeated Naperville North 47-43 in the night's first sectional semifinal.

"Our coaches do a great job preparing us, with their sets and everything," said junior forward Will Engels, who led the Redwings with 15 points. "Bartlett, they're such an interesting team because they've got talent and they also play hard."

The Redwings jumped out to a 24-11 halftime lead and a 33-20 advantage at the end of the third quarter, and it looked like they were on cruise control, especially when senior guard Jacob Petrovic hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter.

That's when Bartlett struck.

A steal and layup by senior guard Tomas Vikonis. Three free throws. A three-point play from senior guard Ben Tompson. And then the crème de la crème -- a 3-pointer from the right corner from senior guard Byron Price.

Suddenly, the Redwings (26-4) were in a ballgame, up just 36-31 with 5:20 to go.

Never fear, though. Colin Crothers came to the rescue with a 5-0 run of his own in the next two minutes that ultimately was the backbreaker for Bartlett.

Crothers finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Not bad for a guy who, by his own admission, hasn't played up to par lately.

"I was just trying to turn it around," Crothers said. "I haven't been playing that well lately, and I just wanted to do what I could to help the team win, and I knew what I needed to do at that time, and so I executed the best I could."

Crothers added a layup off a shot block with 52.1 seconds to go that gave Benet a 47-38 lead. That turned out to be insurmountable for the Hawks (17-13).

"We had a little trouble with their pressure, but luckily, we played well enough defensively all the way through, which gave us a little cushion," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "That's the nature of our team."

Benet outrebounded Bartlett 25-19, with Crothers, Engels and senior guard David Buh each corralling 5. Gates paced the Hawks with 8 rebounds, while Tompson led the team with 11 points. Gates had 9.

Neither team shot particularly well -- Benet had a slight advantage at 36 percent, compared to 33 percent for the Hawks -- but the Hawks shot well in the fourth quarter, including Gates' and Price's 3s.

"I thought after the first quarter where we were kind of tight and not scared, but not loose and with rhythm, I thought from that point on we settled in and played good basketball," said Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith.

But make no mistake -- the end is never easy. Just ask Tompson.

"Playing with these guys, they are my best friends," he said. "It's going to be tough to go away from them, but we'll go our separate ways and hopefully remain close."

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