Benet survives Montini's challenge
Playing a game for the first time in over a week, Benet got pushed to the limit by a resilient Montini team at the CCL/ESCC Conference Challenge Saturday.
But a strong third quarter provided just enough cushion for the Redwings to escape with a 55-50 win at Marist High School.
Ben Romenesko and Sam Driscoll each made two free throws in the closing seconds to twice deny the Broncos a chance at a game-tying shot.
"It wasn't our best game but we kept our poise at the end," said senior guard Brennan White, who along with Brady Kunka led the team in scoring with 13 points, "and we came out with the win. A lot of respect to Montini, they are a very good team. Give credit to them, they played really well.
"We've started out the year pretty strong. We had that Proviso East challenge (Benet's lone loss by a 58-50 margin) and obviously Montini just challenged us. And now we've got Carmel next Friday. They are a very good team, that will be another challenge."
Leading 30-26 at halftime, Benet (5-1) used an 11-4 third quarter run to build a double-digit advantage, capped off by Kunka's breakaway dunk. The junior also hauled down six rebounds.
"It was a good team win," Kunka said. "We had a lot of turnovers, especially with their zone, but we made free throws down the stretch and we had guys make some big plays.
"This is a team that is super unselfish. We love passing to each other and getting open shots. We are not going to have one guy taking 20 shots in a game and we are all OK with that. We just want to get the win."
The Redwings, who were back in action for the first time since a 72-57 win over Joliet Catholic on Dec. 3, were indeed balanced in their scoring. Kyle Thomas, a 6-10 transfer from St. Joes, had eight points, six rebounds and two blocks, Driscoll finished with seven points and Weston Stephens knocked down a pair of 3-pointers for his six points. Benet made seven shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
"It was good to win," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp, whose team had their scheduled Friday contest against St. Viator postponed. "Obviously that cushion we built up in the third quarter was huge for us down the stretch. We hung on, we made enough plays in the end.
"But give Montini a lot of credit, they made a lot of plays. They forced us into turnovers; yes we need to get better but give them credit for forcing those turnovers."
The Broncos certainly made things interesting in the final stages of the fourth quarter, scoring 10 straight points to pull within 51-48 with 50 seconds left. Emory Marshall had five points during that spurt and he led all players with 18 points to go along with five steals. Estevan Moreno totaled eight points and five rebounds, Andrew Stokes contributed seven points and seven rebounds and Danny Petersen had six points.
Montini (3-5) led on three different occasions in the first quarter before eventually trailing 17-15 after the opening eight minutes.
"We are working on building a program here," said Montini coach Adam DeMong, whose team also played Brother Rice and DePaul earlier in the week. "Benet's a program that has done special things. We just want our kids to compete and for stretches of that game, we really competed.
"I thought we elevated our offense in that closing stretch. Our players made some plays. And Emory, who is our point guard, does a really good job managing the game. He's a guy who can certainly make plays."