Benet's big 2nd half spoils St. Viator's upset bid
Benet needed an extra gear Tuesday night in Arlington Heights.
They Redwings trailed St. Viator by three point at the half. Benet then changed the pace of the game and pulled away for a 61-48 win over the Lions in the East Suburban Catholic.
"We needed to extend the floor and speed the game up," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "The game was to their tempo in the first half and they really frustrated us."
St. Viator (9-12, 4-5) gave Benet all it could handle and more in the first half.
Benet (20-1, 9-0) jumped out to a 6-0 lead and the Redwings appeared to be on their way.
Viator, which had turned the ball over on its first two possessions, then showed that keen eye for the basket. Dayvion Ellis, Eli Aldana and Brandyn Michaels consecutively knocked down threes.
The Lions use that three-point shooting to stay close. Meanwhile, Benet was getting second chances thanks to strong rebounding by Parker Sulaver.
"I just had to use my size and take advantage of the mismatch I had," said Sulaver, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.
"I really tried to get on the glass and affect the game that way."
The Lions hit 10 of their first 14 shots and took a 27-24 halftime lead on a tip-in at the buzzer by Ryan Camblin.
That's when Benet made their charge, and it hurt the Lions right away.
Led by Brayden Fagbemi, the Redwings spurted to a 36-30 midway through the third quarter. Benet's pressure defense, which saw Fagbemi come up with four steals for the game, was making a difference.
"Being able to take a team out of what they want to do offensively is a big part of our defense," said Fagbemi, who finished with a game-high 18 points.
"We extended the floor, sped the game up a little bit and force them to turn the ball over a little bit. It forced them to spread out and we could make plays when we needed them."
Viator got it back to 36-33 on a three-pointer by Ryan Jackson. But Benet's smothering defense forced four turnovers in the third quarter and limited the Lions to 2-of-9 shooting in the period. That enabled the Redwings to close out the quarter on a 6-0 run and lead 42-33.
Benet opened up a 12-point lead in the final quarter. The Lions then made one last gasp, pulling within 52-45 on a three-pointer by Henry Marshall with 3:32 left.
Benet tightened its grip, closing out the game on a 9-2 run to remain unbeaten in conference play.
"In the second we sped the game up," Heidkamp said. "That plays to our advantage to our team because we have multiple guards that can play. If the floor opens with more of an up-tempo game and little bit wider, most times that plays to our advantage."
Nikola Abusara had 14 points and 6 rebounds for Benet while Brady Kunka had 12 points.
Michaels led Viator with nine points. Ellis had eight points while Marshall, Aldana and Jackson each had seven points.
"We competed our tails off on both ends of the court," St. Viator coach Michael O'Keeffe said. "We gave them a heckuva game. We are not content with that or satisfied with that. But I think it is a great sign for our team moving forward."