Benet knocks off Nazareth
Sure, you can try to stop Benet's considerable perimeter shooting capabilities.
But that means sophomore forward Colin Crothers will make your life miserable with easy layups. And now it appears he's got the perfect complement down low.
Junior Will Engels is a starter but perhaps a little lower profile than Crothers or senior ace shooters David Buh and Jacob Petrovic. On Friday against host Nazareth, Engels exploded with 12 points and 4 rebounds in a 44-31 victory in a deafening Rooney Student Center.
How effective was Engels? He scored 10 of his 12 in the second half. Three of his rebounds were on the offensive end -- three of 10 total Benet offensive boards this night.
"He had a big second half," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "His energy was big for us, because we didn't shoot the ball particularly well tonight, but our guys on the glass made up for it. Colin was big, Will was big, and his energy in the second half was a huge difference."
Most importantly, Engels helped keep a much-improved Nazareth team at bay when they crawled to within 29-26 with 35 seconds left in the third quarter with an 8-0 run. After a Crothers free throw with 8.9 seconds, Engels connected on a layup at the buzzer off an inbounds play.
He wasn't done. Midway through the fourth quarter, he did it again to increase the Redwings' advantage to 39-26, which they would never relinquish.
Truth be told, he seemed to be everywhere on the court, to help the Redwings improve to 16-4 and 3-1 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
"Coming into the second half, I wanted to do whatever I could to give the team a boost," Engels said, "whether that's scoring, rebounds, defense. I just kept attacking and I felt like I could get it in the paint and kick or score. It just worked out for me."
The beneficiary, of course, was the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Crothers, who faced two big defensive challenges in Nazareth forwards Michael Adams and Darnell Hanson.
"It was really helpful -- it was incredible what he did in the second half," Crothers said of Engels. "That's huge, and that's a big part of why we won."
Give Nazareth credit; it was pesky. The Roadrunners (6-11, 1-4) pulled to within 39-31 with 2:31 to go on a pair of free throws by senior Jake Santi and a 3-pointer from the right arc by sophomore Tagen Pearson.
But they didn't score again. Meanwhile, Benet went 5 for 6 from the line in the final 2:01 -- including a pair from Engels -- to salt away the victory.
"We knew we had enough points; we just needed to take care of the ball," Heidkamp said of that last 2:31. "We had to really lock down defensively, because they have some shooters, so the goal was to grind it out defensively."
Buh added 9 on three 3-pointers for Benet, which shot 35 percent and outrebounded Nazareth 21-18.