Hoffman Estates pulls out hard-fought opening round win
As Marian Central and Hoffman Estates kept fighting it out, trading baskets, it became evident that neither was going to let the other get away.
Eventually, it was Hoffman Estates that came up with one key defensive stop, followed by a rebound and two crucial free throws from 6-foot-9 forward DJ Wallace.
It was just enough, as Marian's Cale McThenia's 35-foot, 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim, giving the Hawks a 57-54 victory in the first round of Jacobs' Hinkle Holiday Classic on Tuesday morning.
"We really just had to gut one out, find ways to get stops against a really tough team," Hoffman Estates coach Pete McBride said. "They have two really elite athletes (McThenia and Christian Bentancur) who pose matchup difficulties. I was proud of the way we approached that and responded to it."
Marian (6-9) had the ball with 35 seconds remaining and trailed 55-54. The Hurricanes got two shots for the lead, but missed. Wallace grabbed the rebound of the second shot and was fouled. He made his two free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining.
Bentancur, Marian's 6-5 junior forward, took the ball out and fired a pass to McThenia, just past half-court. McThenia turned and fired a shot that was just long.
"There is not anything in that game you could point to as a turning point," Hurricanes coach Charley Walsh said. "It was a back-and-forth game, kind of ugly in the first half offensively. The second half it was one of those games where they made one extra play. Both teams slugged it out, they made one more play."
Hoffman Estates meets Prairie Ridge at 3 p.m. Wednesday in a quarterfinal game. Marian faces South Elgin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in a consolation quarterfinal.
Wallace led the Hawks (7-4) with 21 pints and eight rebounds. Jacob Atkins-Mirich added 11 points with three 3s. Adell Bosnjak also scored 11.
"I'm just thinking that I've done this multiple times," Wallace said of his last two free throws. "I've done this all through the season. I've been through this before, make your free throws and play defense."
Bentancur led Marian with 18 points, Jake Giangreco scored 14 with three 3s and McThenia added 10.
Unfortunately for Marian, Giangreco fouled out with 1:23 to go, so the Hurricanes were playing from behind without their hottest shooter. He made all three of his 3s and had 11 points in the second half.
"Missing Jake the last 1:23 was huge," Walsh said. "He's our floor leader, he keeps everybody in line. We get better shots with him on the floor. Christian dominates the stats, but Jake leads us all the time."
Atkins-Mirich hit two 3s early in the fourth quarter that pushed the lead to 48-44. Marian never led after that point, but came back to tie at 52-52. Wallace made one free throw, Nate Cleveland made two and Wallace finished with his last two to close it out.
"It was just keeping ourselves together," Wallace said. "We've been playing for each other for a long time. We all know each other well and have great chemistry. We stay together and keep our heads in the game, that's what helped us win."
McBride felt good about having his big man at the line at the end.
"DJ is an excellent free-throw shooter for his size," McBride said. "He was excellent on both ends. He was a true difference-maker."