RURAL STREATOR – The hazy, start-of-the-season picture at the Woodland portion of the Route 17 Thanksgiving Classic became a little clearer after Tuesday’s second night of play.
The St. Bede Bruins established themselves as the team to beat with a come-from-behind 59-49 victory over Flanagan-Cornell in Tuesday’s early varsity game, while in a late game that inched toward 10 o’clock the host Woodland Warriors fought until the end but couldn’t climb out of an early deficit in an eventual 47-39 loss to Ridgeview.
Pool play concludes Wednesday with St. Bede (2-0) playing Ridgeview (1-1) and Flanagan-Cornell (1-1) taking on Woodland (0-2). The finals of the Route 17 Classic will be contested Saturday in Dwight.
St. Bede 59, Flanagan-Cornell 49: In the battle for the catbird seat of the Woodland Pool, it was the Falcons who took control early, leading St. Bede by a dozen points (16-4) late in the opening quarter.
The Bruins, though, scrapped their way back to even by halftime. Connor Brown’s lone bucket of the night – a coast-to-coast layup off a defensive rebound 28 seconds before the break – was the tying basket, making it 20-20.
The Bedans then built upon that momentum and seized complete control in the third quarter, leading 40-31 heading into the fourth. St. Bede outscored the Falcons 34-25 in the game’s middle quarters, led by huge third-quarter efforts from Isaiah Hart (nine of his game-high 21 scored in the third) and John Brady (six of his 13 points coming in the third).
“Flanagan-Cornell plays such good defense year in and year out,” St. Bede coach Brian Hanson said, “and I thought we took some of that grit too, had a little of our own tonight. I’m just really proud of how our guys competed.”
Alongside Hart’s 21-point night and Brady’s 13-point, eight-rebound, four-steal performance, Callan Hueneburg scored 18 points including clutch 8-of-8 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter, and Brendan Pillion handed out a game-high four assists.
Flanagan-Cornell was led by Connor Reed’s 18 points – including five 3-pointers – as well as 13 points and eight rebounds from Kesler Collins and a dozen points and eight rebounds courtesy of Seth Jones.
The Falcons muscled to a 41-30 edge in rebounding, leading to their attempting 18 more shots from the field than St. Bede. The Bedans counterbalanced that by quite simply shooting better from the field – 43.2% (19 of 44) compared to Flanagan-Cornell’s 33.9% (21 of 62) – and getting to the free-throw line for 28 tries to the Falcons’ nine free-throw attempts.
With a win Wednesday, St. Bede would advance to Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. title game against the winner of the Dwight Pool.
“We haven’t been in this position before, because each year we’ve fallen to Flanagan,” Hanson said. “This year we have an opportunity to control what we do.
“We’ll see what we’re made of, because we have to come out with that same grit and toughness we showed tonight.”
Ridgeview 47, Woodland 39: While the story of the night’s first game was a comeback from a slow start, the host Warriors couldn’t quite close the gap after missing their first seven shots from the field to fall behind 16-5 after one quarter. By halftime, Woodland was 2 of 17 shooting with nine turnovers and trailed the Mustangs – three days removed from a playoff semifinal loss in football – 28-10.
“Unfortunately, I think our cold shooting from night one [a loss to St. Bede] carried over to the first half tonight,” Woodland coach Connor Kaminke said. “But we woke up at halftime and really clawed back and played about as good as we’re going to play this early in the season as young as we are.”
A team Kaminke said in the preseason he valued for its work ethic and heart showed it in the second half, however. The Warriors opened the second half by scoring the third-quarter’s initial eight points, spearheaded by a Jonathan Moore trey, a Moore deuce and then a Nick Plesko 3-pointer off an assist from Moore.
That cut the Mustangs lead to 28-18, and between eight and a dozen points is where it hovered for most of the remainder. Woodland had one last rally in it over the closing two minutes – back-to-back buckets from Connor Dodge, a Moore 3 and a Plesko take to the hoop giving the Warriors 10 points over a 1-minute, 35-second stretch as time wound down – but never climbed closer than seven points as Ridgeview made just enough free throws to remain comfortably in control.
Cam Kelly (15 points) and Clayton Beitz (11 points, nine rebounds) led Ridgeview.
For Woodland, Moore’s 17-point, six-rebound, three-assist effort led the way. Plesko added 12 points and three blocked shots, Dodge scored five points, and Carter Ewing tied Moore for the team lead in rebounds with six.
“I’ll take that second-half effort any day,” Kaminke said. “If we could have stretched that out for four quarters, this would have been a little different end result.”