O’Brien: Benet shocks Simeon, advances to state title game

SHARE O’Brien: Benet shocks Simeon, advances to state title game
SHARE O’Brien: Benet shocks Simeon, advances to state title game

PEORIA — Simeon played like a well-oiled, dominant machine through the playoffs. But upsets have been in the air for the past week of the state tournament and it was Benet’s turn in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena on Friday.

The Redwings knocked off the Wolverines 49-48.

Simeon senior Zach Norvell had a half-court heave to win just before the buzzer, but it fell short.

“My heart was in my hands,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said.

The Redwings (31-3) have won 16 consecutive games.

“I think we have a really good team,” Heidkamp said. “Maybe we are still a secret 34 games into the season.”

Benet only played six players in the game. Jason Malonga, Daniel Sobolewski, and Jack Nolan each scored 11 points.

“This group has played with a ton of heart all year and they really play together,” Heidkamp said. “They embody what a high school team should be.”

Benet senior Dan Sobolewski’s three-pointer with 1:35 to play was the dagger.

“They were laying off me, weren’t guarding me at all,” Sobolewski said. “I told [Dockery] if I got an open shot I was going to take it.”

Simeon spent the majority of the fourth quarter trying to kill clock. The Wolverines didn’t score for the final 2:35 of the game.

“[Simeon coach Robert Smith] is a great coach and he wanted to spread us out,” Heidkamp said. “It just worked in our favor.”

Zach Norvell scored 18 points for the Wolverines (29-4) and junior Evan Gilyard added 16.

“We just had to lockdown and get those stops,” Benet’s James Dockery said. “We just kept our poise and pulled it out in the fourth quarter.”

Benet shot 6-for-19 from three-point range and Simeon was 8-for-22.

“Hats of to them,” Smith said. “We got outplayed and out-coached. They probably wanted it more than we did. They have several shooters, they don’t just rely on one person. We tried different defenses, but every time they made a big play. We got to the third quarter and it seemed like they wanted it more than we did. As a coach you can feel it.”

“It came down to defense,” Norvell said. “They made some big plays and some big shots.”

The Redwings will face Curie in the state title game on Saturday.

“It feels good, no one gave us a chance,” Malonga said. “The guys in the locker room all knew we could do it. It’s nice to see all the hard work pay off.”

Benet advanced to the state title game in 2014, they lost to Young and Jahlil Okafor.

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