OTTAWA – With just over three minutes remaining in Tuesday’s final game of the night at the Dean Riley “Shootin’ The Rock” Thanksgiving Tournament, La Salle-Peru coach Jim Cherveny called a timeout.
His Cavaliers, once holders of a 15-point lead late in the first half, were now up by just a point against the rallying Streator Bulldogs.
“I thought the game was at a standstill at that point for us,” Cherveny said. “We were stagnant, we didn’t have much flow to anything, and I think we were just hoping to score. I used the timeout to remind them that they still had to play the game, and the game is not just passing the ball around the perimeter. It’s attacking and being aggressive.
“At that point of the game, Streator was playing very aggressively, so I said to them, ‘Why aren’t we doing the same?’ ”
Out of the break, L-P’s Josh Senica forcefully grab an offensive rebound and laid it in. Then after an offensive foul on the other end by Streator, Senica found a cutting London Cabrera for a back-door layup to extend the lead back to five and help the Cavs earn a 58-49 win at Kingman Gym to improve to 1-1.
Senica finished with a game-high 29 points and 16 rebounds as well as four assists. Cabrera added 11 points and six rebounds, with Seth Adams netting eight points and recording five steals.
“Josh is tough for sure, and he played another really solid game for us tonight,” Cherveny said. “Seth Adams was and is a very calming presence on the floor for us. He showed a lot of ball toughness, and it’s something we work on in practice all the time. They, as well as London Cabrera, have had really good starts to the season.
“They have played for me for three years, they understand how I think also. They buy-in to what we teach in practice, and it carries over for them on the court.”
Streator trailed 19-11 after one quarter, 32-21 at halftime and 43-35 heading to the fourth.
The Bulldogs (0-2) still trailed 48-40 with five minutes to play, but a free-throw line jumper by Logan Aukland preceded two free throws and a steal-turned-three-point play by Christian Benning to close the gap to 48-47.
Benning finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and five steals, while Aukland added 10 points and Matt Williamson seven.
“I’m proud of the guys for fighting back to get it to one after it looked like it at times in the first half we were in trouble,” Streator coach Beau Doty said. “They showed a lot of toughness tonight. But we showed again tonight the ups and downs of an inexperienced team that is figuring things out a little bit at a time.
“We are a work in progress, but we’ll get better. It’s just going to take time.”
Streator led 9-7 at the start, but L-P used a 10-0 burst over a five-minute span to make it a double-digit lead. In the burst, Senica hit a 3-pointer, scored on a drive and rebounded a missed shot for a hoop. Cabrera sank a triple, and Nolan Van Duzer scored at the rim off a feed from Senica.
“Senica came out strong right from the start,” Doty said. “He showed he can hit shots from the arc, but he is also an absolute beast in the paint. He forced us to get out of our comfort level a little bit and go to a zone. We had to make an adjustment to our game plan very quickly. With our lack of size we had to change some things up, but to be honest, I feel like the zone helped us get back in the game.”
The two teams finish up pool play Friday, as La Salle-Peru battles Princeton at 1 p.m., while Streator will look to bounce back for its first victory against Oak Forest at 2:30 p.m.