Defense, Diehl and Nolan lead Redwings past St. Viator in Sunday matinee
Last updated 3/7/2021 at 8:58pm
On Friday night in Arlington Heights, The Associated Press' Illinois Class 3A, No.1-ranked Dons of Notre Dame, met St. Viator's 5-foot-11 sophomore guard, Eli Aldana up close and personal.
Aldana, scored nine of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, erasing an 11-point Dons lead and leading his Lions to a stunning 47-46 victory. Aldana buried a three-pointer to pull the Lions within 46-45 and turned the Dons over and then hit a game-winning runner with five seconds left for the victory.
But they say defense wins.
In Sunday's East Suburban Catholic Conference match-up between the hosts from Benet Academy and Aldana's Lions, the Lions super-soph was the target of one of the state's best defenses.
Benet senior Sam Hennessy, with a little help from his friends, was Kryptonite to the Lions' Superman Aldana.
Hennessy and friends held him to just five points, leading the Redwings (8-3, 6-2) to a crucial 49-36 ESCC victory.
"Sammy (Hennessy) just totally shut down Aldano," said senior Tyler Van Eekeren. "We believe no one plays better defense in the state. It's how we stay in every game."
"We watched the Notre Dame-St. Viator game and saw what a great player Aldana is." Hennessy said. "I received a lot of help from Tyler and Luke (Nolan) in shutting him down tonight. We ran our offense brilliantly and Carson was able to put up a career high scoring night, for us."
Carson is Benet's 6-foot-4 senior Carson Diehl, who scored a career-high 19 points to lead the Redwings. Diehl pulled down five rebounds and was another dose of Kryptonite for St. Viator (6-3, 4-3).
After seeing a 16-point Benet Academy lead cut down to 34-30 with 4:54 remaining in the game, Redwing Eekeren (7 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots, three assists) and Luke Nolan stepped up.
The Lions 6-foot-5 senior, Aidan Harrington (15 points, five rebounds) drove on Van Eekeren.
Van Eekeren rejected Harrington's shot and the Redwings raced down the court and Hennessy found Nolan.
Nolan (five points) unleashed a 20-foot, three-point dagger that extended the 'Wings lead to 37-30 with 4:56 left. Nolan then calmly sink a pair of free throws for a 39-30 lead and Hennessy (eight points, five rebounds, three assists) split a pair of free throws for a 40-30 Benet lead with 3:15 left
"We were obviously struggling on offense and Viator was really making a run at us," Nolan said. "I received a great pass from Sam (Hennessy) and I was fortunate to knock the shot down."
The first half belonged to Diehl.
Scoring a dozen of his game-high 19 points in the first half, Diehl led the Redwings to a 26-12 halftime lead.
Trailing 9-7 with a minute remaining in the first quarter, Hennessy buried a long-range three point bomb that was followed by a steal and score by Van Eekeren for a 12-9 Redwings lead after one quarter.
Behind seven Diehl second-quarter points, including a long-range three-pointer, the Benet run extended to 16-0 and a 23-9 Redwings lead at the second-quarter mask break.
"After the tough loss last night at St. Pat's, it was important we played well today," Diehl said. "I played well today but as you saw all of my baskets were assisted by my teammates. We ran our offense to perfection."
Behind five, third-quarter points from Harrington, St. Viator (6-3, 4-3) pulled to within 31-25 with1:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Redwings junior guard Brennan White (three points) does not score often, but when he does his points always lead to a Redwings victory.
White's old-fashioned, three-point play gave Benet a 34-25 lead with 59 seconds remaining in third quarter.
Harrington buried another three to pull the Lions within 34-28 after three quarters,
"Sammy (Hennessy) may be the best defensive player in our conference," Benet Academy coach Gene Heidkamp said. "Carson was outstanding tonight for us and it was a complete team win. St. Viator was making a run at us and Luke's (Nolan) three was big and we knocked down our free throws to put the game away."
Up next for the Redwings, is a Tuesday Senior Night visit from Marist.
If the Redwings are fortunate to defeat the RedHawks and Marian Catholic (7-5, 6-2) can surprise Notre Dame 13-2, 7-1) in Chicago Heights on Tuesday night, Benet Academy will be 2020-21 East Suburban Catholic Conference co-champs.
"Without a state tournament this season our goal was to win the ESCC," Diehl concluded. "It would be a great way to cap off our season."