Wheaton Academy comes from behind to beat St. Francis

 
 
Updated 1/12/2019 11:18 PM
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Wheaton Academy's students admirably are out on various service projects now, their Winterim break. They missed a tense boys basketball game against rival St. Francis on Saturday.

The visiting Spartans trailed by 11 points late in the third quarter then rallied to take three separate fourth-quarter leads before Wheaton Academy battled back to win the Metro Suburban Conference crossover contest 58-50 in West Chicago.

"It was a tough game. Whenever you play St. Francis it's going to be a tough game," said Warriors coach Steve Thonn. "They put a lot of pressure on us, I thought they played a great game. I think our guys responded."

Starting with Nick Kosmetatos inside late in the third quarter, St. Francis (5-12) zoomed to a 13-0 run and 43-41 lead midway through the fourth. Robert Nocek twice converted offensive rebounds, and Eric Welch hit a pair of 3s in the run.

"I think the energy on the bench really helped. And then from our fans, and just getting stops on defense," said the 6-foot-4 Nocek, who scored 8 points, and grabbed 5 of his 6 rebounds in the fourth quarter.

Trading baskets with Welch and Nocek, Wheaton Academy (12-5) recovered behind Marcus Bult's three-point play, then Bult hit a 3 from the right corner.

Nocek scored inside, Marcus Ingold assisting, but on the other end Wheaton Academy's Jack Dykema laced a left-corner 3 for a 50-48 Warriors lead with 1:50 remaining.

A pair of St. Francis turnovers broke continuity. Bult capitalized with another 3 and a backdoor layup assisted by Max Scharnowski for a 7-point lead with 43 seconds left.

St. Francis' resilient Mike Cascella -- the senior guard turned an ankle in the third quarter and absorbed 255-pound Warriors post Sebastian Pares falling on him in the fourth -- made two free throws to bring the Spartans within 55-50 with 40.3 seconds remaining. Successive steals by Wheaton Academy's Gerald Blackmon, Bult and Tobi Sonuga iced the Warriors' win.

"Really I think our defense as a team got us over the edge. We hit a couple big shots but I think our defense won us that game, in the second half mostly," said Bult, who led all scorers with 21 points, 13 of them in the fourth quarter.

Dykema scored 13 points, Blackmon 10 and Pares scored 6 with 10 rebounds. St. Francis got 10 points apiece off the bench from Kosmetatos, Ingold and Welch, who went 4 for 4 from the floor.

The first half featured a combined 23 turnovers, Wheaton Academy leading 14-12 after one quarter and 21-20 at halftime. Then things got interesting.

"I think it's a great high school rivalry," said St. Francis coach Erin Dwyer. "Guys are playing hard, guys are playing with passion, it's a great environment. It's a lot of fun to coach."

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