Bonga keys Wheaton North victory over Palatine
Ben Bonga is, in a good way, a very focused player.
The Wheaton North junior rarely showed any emotion on the court throughout Thursday's 57-36 blowout victory over Palatine in the first day of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic.
The 6-foot-3 Bonga had a statement performance in the long-running tourney, scoring nine straight points in the fourth quarter in the midst of a 21-0 run by the Falcons (5-4) that turned a three-point deficit late in the third quarter into a runaway victory.
Wheaton North advanced to play Riverside-Brookfield at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Bonga fueled the Falcons' run by drilling a 3-pointer after his team grabbed consecutive offensive rebounds. He added two free throws on the next possession and scored on a postup. Bonga closed out the run with a fastbreak layup to end his four-possession highlight-reel performance.
After each basket Bonga stayed focused on his job of retreating to the other side of the court to play defense rather than wasting any unnecessary seconds celebrating. He finished with a team-best 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
"That felt pretty good, a confidence booster going into the rest of the tournament and season," Bonga said. "We're looking forward to the rest of the tournament."
The Falcons, in fact, rode the fiery start by Bonga to score on their first 11 fourth-quarter possessions before emptying the bench. Senior guard Zack Lorentsen carried the load in the second part of the surge, scoring on a layup, hitting a 3-pointer and adding another basket to finish with 12 points and 7 rebounds.
The Falcons forced seven fourth-quarter turnovers.
"We just started having a flow, turned our defense into our offense," Lorentsen said. "When it's clicking like that, it's fun to play. I'm taking on a much bigger role this year, so it's been fun for me. It feels great to help out the team."
Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann praised Bonga and Lorentsen for stepping up late in the game.
"Ben passed up a couple of shots that we would've liked him to take earlier, but once he hit that 3 from the top that gave him and a lot of guys confidence," Brackmann said.
"Zack often knocks down open looks. Ben is very versatile. He can stick his nose down low and get an offensive rebound for a putback and put it on the floor and finish. He's developing a much-improved outside shot."
The Falcons' shifted their defensive philosophy in the second half to counter the strong inside play of Palatine junior Julian Campbell. At 6-foot-7 Campbell's height and bulk made him an immovable force in the paint that took some time for the Falcons to solve. Campbell led all scorers with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks.
"We knew we couldn't stop him, just had to contain him," Bonga said. "We had to help off and double him and that helped slow him down."