PERU – The St. Bede boys basketball team wrapped up its regular season Wednesday, honoring seniors John Brady, Callan Hueneburg, Connor Brown, Landon Jackson, Tom Makransky, Brendon Pillion and Hayden Arkins.
But Putnam County cut the celebration short, building a 16-point lead before the Bruins rallied to tie the game behind Hueneburg and Brady.
The Panthers regained their composure and went on to win 58-51.
“We came out with a lot of energy and played well early and then we let down a bit, and give them credit they made a couple of changes and never gave up,” Putnam County coach Harold Fay said. “I thought we showed some character to regroup and raise our intensity down the stretch.
“It’s a good win, and we also have some teaching moments and things to work on heading to the postseason.”
Putnam County opens the postseason Saturday against Unity Christian in Granville in the Dwight Regional, while St. Bede faces Woodland on Saturday in Peru in the Midland Regional.
“First off we have a special bunch of seniors,” St. Bede coach Brian Hanson said. “We told them that once the season ends we are going to miss them. They are a big part of our daily lives. It’s not just the kids that get the minutes on game night, it’s the attitude and work ethic the other guys bring to push the starters. You saw it tonight. This team went down early and didn’t fold the tents. Instead, they kept working hard and this will help us in the postseason.”
The game began with Hueneburg draining a 3-pointer to give the hosts a lead, but PC rattled off the next 10 to build a 10-3 lead with Andrew Pyszka (nine points) accounting for five of them.
Hueneburg connected on a basket before the next eight points went to the Panthers with Austin Mattingly doing most of the damage to make the score 20-5.
Jackson scored for the Bruins before Mattingly ended the quarter with a 3 to make the score 23-7 after one period.
The Bruins came out with new energy in the second as they went on a 7-0 run with Pillion scoring five and Brady (eight points) adding a bucket to cut the lead to 23-14.
After a Mattingly 3, the Bruins again closed the gap with Isaiah Hart scoring a layup and Pillion scoring the next four to pull the Bruins within six.
The teams traded hoops for the rest of the half and PC took a 31-24 lead into the locker rooms.
Brady sparked St. Bede’s comeback in the second half with a steal and layup, which started a 7-2 run.
“I felt like we left it all out on the court tonight, but we know that’s what we have to do every night to compete, and that’s what makes this team special,” Brady said. “We could have given up early, but we didn’t.
“It’s great to have played four years with these guys every day, and we work hard and have a good time, too. We were able to come back tonight because of the way this group thinks and how we don’t quit. We played hard-nosed defense and we take pride in that. I think we are in a good place heading into regionals.”
The Panthers finished the quarter strong by scoring the last nine points of the period to build a 42-33 lead.
The Bruins inched closer as Hueneburg buried another 3 and Brown knocked down a jumper.
That’s when Andrew Pyszka and Mattingly for PC and Brady and Hueneburg for St. Bede started to battle back and forth.
The Panthers led 53-48 with less than two minutes to play.
Wyatt Grimshaw put the finishing touches on the game for Putnam County with a three-point play.
Mattingly scored 22 points for the Panthers, while Hueneburg finished with 22 for the Bruins.
“I had a good [game] because my teammates got me the ball in the right spots, and fortunately I was able to knock down some shots tonight, but that’s the brand of ball we play, unselfish and high energy,” Hueneburg said. “Senior night is special, and we weren’t going to let a slow start ruin it, so we just snipped away at it and even got to a tie. It would have been nice to win it, but I was proud of how we played.”