Big shot before half, ball control lifts Beecher past Fieldcrest

Chilly-shooting Knights can’t catch undefeated Bobcats

Eddie Lorton

CLIFTON – The deciding factor in the championship game of the Clifton Central Class 2A Sectional wasn’t as much about the little shots that didn’t fall for the Fieldcrest Knights, but the one shot that did drop for Beecher.

After the Knights finally closed the gap from a half-dozen points to just one on two occasions in the second period, the Bobcats’ Orlin Nesbitt canned a 3-pointer from NBA range with just two seconds left before the break, giving his team a seven-point lead that they would hang on to for virtually the rest of their 60-43 victory on Friday night at CC’s “The Crater” gymnasium.

That shot and the ability of Beecher to both score in the paint and keep the ball out of Fieldcrest’s hands throughout the latter half were enough to send the Bobcats (34-0) into Monday’s 7 p.m. Joliet Central Supersectional against Chicago Phillips.

The loss ended the Knights season at a standout 33-2, snapping a 23-game winning streak, despite 13 points from Ed Lorton, 12 points and a team-best six rebounds from Jordan Heider and 10 points from Brady Ruestman.

“It’s a credit to them. They’re a great team. Theres a reason they’re 34-0,” Fieldcrest coach Jeremy Haun said. “Its tough to overcome. We’ve dealt with that all season. Whenever we could get a multi-possession lead on a team, we were a couple of defensive stands or a big shot away from putting a kill shot on a team and they’re very similar … We knew if they got a couple possession lead, they’d would spread us out and try to play keep away for a while because they’re good ball-handlers and they make good decisions That’s the smart play for them … We picked a not so great a night to miss some shots, but it is what it is.

“That 3 was huge for them, a monstrous shot for that young man to hit. We knew he could shoot as a big, but from that distance? That just added too much cushion and gave them a boost, and when the margins are that thin and the teams are good, shots like that are huge.

“I’m just so proud of our kids. They’re great men, wherever you’re around them.”

The Bobcats, who were led by Adyn McGinley’s 16 points, 14 from Ethan Rydberg and 11 points and nine boards from Jack Hayhurst, were the more aggressive team at the start, forcing four turnovers and holding the Knights to 1 of 3 shooting in the first four minutes. A pair of free throws by Nesbitt made the early edge 9-2.

Consecutive buckets by Fieldcrest’s Brady Ruestman cut the edge to one, as did a floater by Jordan Heider a minute later.

But that’s when Nesbit capitalized on a Knights’ turnover and hit a deep 3 from the right wing to send the ‘Cats to the locker room happy.

An 11-5 string at the start of the third quickly stretched the margin to double figures and led to the keepaway the rest of the contest. Also, it seemed every time the Knights had an and-1 opportunity, the shot would rim off and they’d can just one of the two free throws. They finished 8 of 16 from the line on the night and shot an average 42% (16 of 38) from the field.

“To go in at the half with a lead was good, but to get that huge 3 and fly off the floor, it was a big momentum swing for us,” Beecher coach Tyler Shireman said. “We knew the job wasn’t done. We knew that Coach Haun does a great job and they’d come at us in the second half, but I’m proud of my guys.

“It never felt like the moment was too big for them tonight. I keep thinking we’re gonna get ‘em, the jitters, worried about being undefeated, but these guys just wanna compete. They just look at it as another day of best friends getting to play basketball one more day together, so they feel there’s nothing to be nervous about.”