CHICAGO HEIGHTS – This time the deficit was too much for Benet to overcome.
A night after rallying for an overtime victory, the Redwings got off to a poor start and never caught up, falling to host Marian Catholic 55-46 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference championship game on Saturday night in Chicago Heights.
In the tourney semifinal, on Friday, Benet (22-6) had to go to overtime to defeat Notre Dame, 51-46.
“We came off an emotional overtime win from last night,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “We were down seven with 1:30 to play and rallied for a big overtime win. But tonight we just didn’t make our shots.”
No, they didn’t, finishing 15-of-49 from the field and 8-of 10 from the free-throw line. Juniors Brady Kunka (13 points, five rebounds) and Sam Driscoll (11 points), along with sophomore Ben Romenesko (seven points) led the way for Benet.
Still, the Redwings, who trailed by 13 points in the opening minute of the fourth quarter and 48-36 with 2:57 to play in the game, scored seven points in 27 seconds to trim the deficit to 48-43 with 2:07 remaining. But they missed a 3-pointer at the 1:33 mark that would have cut it to two. Marian made a layup and hit 5-of-9 free throws in the final 1:20 to clinch the win.
“We huddled up and looked at the clock with two minutes left and thought we can do this again,” said Kunka, who made the All-Tournament team. “But (the Spartans) are a good team and it’s hard to come back from that.”
Jeremiah Jones, a senior guard who was named the tournament MVP, led Marian Catholic with 18 points. Junior guard Tre Davis had 13 of his 16 points in the first half and junior forward Quentin Jones added nine points and 11 rebounds for the Spartans.
The Redwings finished 9-0 in the league during the season, including a 55-41 victory over Marian Catholic on Jan. 13 in Chicago Heights.
But a poor start put them in too big of a hole this time around. Davis deposited a 3-pointer just over a minute into the game and Marian led the whole way. Driscoll made a jumper 1:22 into the game to make it 3-2 but Benet went nearly six minutes without scoring, opening the game 1-for-10 from the field. The Spartans took advantage and led 17-2 with a minute left in the first quarter.
It was 17-7 after one quarter and 31-21 at halftime.
“We struggled and they got off to a great start,” Heidkamp said. “We can’t spot them a 17-2 lead. But give Marian a lot of credit, they forced our hand.”
Benet did get within 34-28 with 4:38 left in the third quarter. But the Spartans used an 8-2 burst to garb a 42-30 lead after three.
“We came out flat from the beginning,” Kunka said. “We can’t let that happen.”
There are two games left on the Redwings schedule before the postseason. They are the No. 3 seed in the Class 4A Bartlett Sectional and will open the playoffs on Wednesday, Feb. 23 against Metea Valley at the Batavia Regional.
“I think the goal is just to get as far as possible,” Kunka said. “We haven’t shot the ball well so the next two games, for us to get ready for the state tournament, are the most important games of the year.”