Nolan-led Benet Academy survives valiant effort by Joliet Catholic in ESCC opener
Plainfield Central defeats East in girls' action
Last updated 2/10/2021 at 1:01pm
For anyone who watched Tuesday night's East Suburban Catholic Conference opener for both Benet Academy and Joliet Catholic they would have been amazed to learn it was game No.1 for the Hilltoppers.
It was just the second game of 2021 for the visiting Redwings.
Despite in-your-face defense by both schools, turnovers were at a minimum, and the game resembled a late-season ESCC battle instead of the ESCC opener for both schools.
Benet Academy (2-0, 1-0) prevailed 55-47.
The difference in the game turned out to be a 6-foot-2 senior guard from Benet Academy — Luke Nolan.
All the Redwing sharpshooter did was bury seven, long-range three-point bombs, and add an old-fashioned three-point play for a game-high 24 points to lead his Redwings to victory.
"Big ESCC win for us," Nolan said. "It is a lot better to be 1-0 in the ESCC than 0-1. My shot was falling at the very outset of the game. Our offense is designed to find the open man and I was fortunate to continue to knock down my shot. Joliet Catholic played us very tough and is a good team."
With 5:10 remaining in the contest, Joliet Catholic's senior guard Ante Acosta (7 points) buried a three-point shot to tie the game at 37.
Benet went on a 6-0 run on a Sam Hennessy (eight points) free throw, a bucket by senior Connor Diehl and the sixth bomb from beyond the arc by Nolan for a 43-37 lead with 3:21 left.
In his first game on the Hilltopper varsity, junior Alex Brown (17 points) went deep for his third three-point bomb to keep the Hilltoppers within 43-40 with 2:40 left.
Nolan then struck from downtown Joliet for his seventh three-pointer and a 46-40 Benet lead with 2:21 left.
Brown answerd with his sixth and seventh points of the fourth quarter, pulling Joliet Cathollc within 46-42 with 1:32 left.
Benet Academy's big man, 6-foot-6 Tyler Van Eekeren (16 points, 8 rebounds) finished off the Hilltoppers with a pair of drives for two, for a 50-42 lead with a minute to go.
"Huge ESCC road win for us," Van Eekeren said. "Joliet Catholic played us tough and we are fortunate to get out of here with the win. Luke (Nolan) was outstanding for us, tonight. Like Luke said, our offense is designed to find the open man and Luke knocked his shots down."
Nolan hit his first three 3's in the first quarter, which led to a 12-10 Redwing lead after one quarter.
The Hilltoppers behind Brown and senior John Ehrsam (13 points, three 3's) roared past the Redwings in the second quarter for a 23-20 lead at the break.
"We played very hard and played great defense," Brown said. "We really felt we would win but we got a little sloppy in the second half and that hurt us. I felt I played well in my first varsity game. I kept us in the game by knocking down my three-point shots."
"I am so proud of my kids." Joliet Catholic coach Joe Gura said. "They played so hard and we really thought we were going to win tonight. With the exception of a few poor offensive possessions we would have. I am so proud of the way Alex (Brown) played tonight. Do you realize that was his first game on the varsity? John Ehrsam is a born leader."
Next up in the ESCC for the undefeated Redwings is a visit from the Lions of St. Viator on Friday in Lisle.
"Joliet Catholic played hard tonight and gave us a battle," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "This was a big win for us in the ESCC. Luke Nolan was outstanding knocking down his three-point shots tonight. Our offense is designed to find our open shooters. For us to be successful, we must knock down our open shots. Luke was able to do that tonight.
"We have a couple of games this week and we must improve."
Plainfield Central 65, Plainfield East 36
In the season and Southwest Prairie East openers for both Plainfield Central and Plainfield East, the girls of Plainfield Central (1-0,1-0) jumped out to a 21-6 lead after one quarter. The 'Cats extended the lead to 37-11 at the half and cruised to a 65-36 SPC East win behind Tykara Harrison. The 5-foot-9 junior lead the 'Cats with 14 points.
Sophomore Kennise Johnson, added 11 points and 6-foot-1 senior, Melissa Schmidt chipped in with 10 points for the Wildcats.
Up next for Plainfield Central is another SPC East battle, this time at home with the Plainfield South Cougars on Friday night.