Benet’s Liam Lyman had a difficult assignment on Tuesday. The 6-4 senior had the responsibility of guarding Stevenson’s high-flying Justin Smith.
Lyman passed the test with flying colors. He did just enough to make life difficult for Smith, an Indiana recruit, and also managed to score a game-high 24 points to lead the No. 17 Redwings to a 69-53 win against the Patriots in Lisle.
“I didn’t care how many points I scored, I just knew I had to come in and do the job on Justin,” Lyman said. “I’m not gonna lie, I got tired at the end. I just did whatever I could to slow him down, he’s a really athletic player. I had to try to be physical with him but he did a really good job around the glass and on the boards.”
Smith finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Willie Herenton led Stevenson (15-4) with 18 points.
“Liam played really well,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “We knew that he had a difficult matchup against Justin Smith. And we knew that he’d give it everything he had.”
The Redwings (17-6) led by 10 at the half and nine after three quarters. Stevenson never seemed to be able to get into an offensive flow.
“We were really proud of our defense in the first half, we came out and held them to 14 points which is huge for us,” Lyman said.
Jack Nolan scored 22 for Benet. The senior was terrific over the holidays at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and has been one of the season’s dynamic, breakout stars.
“This was a huge win,” Nolan said. “We really came together as a team, it was important to get a huge win at this point in the season and really build some momentum.
Matthew Teglia scored eight and grabbed six rebounds for Benet and Justin Enochs added seven points. Colin Crothers, a 6-7 freshman, continues to improve. His presence in the post was a significant factor in slowing down Stevenson’s offensive attack.
“[Crothers] presence made a difference, he was a big part of this win,” Heidkamp said. “They are so athletic. Justin and Willie Herenton are a force going to the rim.”
Stevenson or Benet has played in the last four Class 4A state title games. The Patriots finished second in 2013 and won the title in 2015. The Redwings finished second in 2016 and 2014.
“This is a win that we needed badly, just because of some of the difficult losses we’ve had in the second half of the year,” Heidkamp said. “We’ve been in just about every game and lost some tough ones.”
The Redwings’ record this season is deceiving, they’ve played one of the most difficult schedules in the area.
““It can be a grind at times. I hope we will be battle-tested for the state tournament,” Heidkamp said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything, just because you play a tough schedule doesn’t mean you are going to play well when the time comes.”