PONTIAC, IL–Kyle Thomas has been a well-known name to high school basketball fans in the state for the past four years. He started at St. Joseph and was generally regarded as the top college prospect in the Class of 2022.
The 6-10 senior transferred to Benet after St. Joseph closed and he’s added a new dimension for the Redwings and coach Gene Heidkamp.
Joliet West didn’t have any answer for Thomas and Benet in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday. The Redwings rolled to an easy 66-37 victory.
“We did what we had to do and it was a team win,” Thomas said. “We aren’t the most athletic team but we have hard-nosed kids that love to play defense and play hard.”
Thomas hurt the Tigers (5-7) early with eight points in the first quarter. He finished with 16 and six rebounds.
“It’s been interesting here,” Thomas said. “I’m still trying to find my place with the team. It’s different than where I was before at Joe’s. It’s just a time thing. The team has to trust me. I trust the team. We’ve all gotten closer this weekend. I’m excited to see what happens from here on out.”
Thomas and the other Redwings had a knack for finding Brady Kunka flashing to the basket. Kunka had 16 points and five rebounds.
“I like to attack the paint and not be shy,” Kunka said.
Benet (8-1) led 20-6 after the first quarter. The Tigers were never able to mount a significant threat. This Benet team shoots well, but is far less reliant on the three pointer than some of the recent excellent teams Heidkamp has brought to Pontiac. The Redwings made just one three in the game, several of their players are able to get to the rim effectively.
“That might have been our best half court offensive game,” Heidkamp said. “The guys executed well and [Thomas] got off to a good start. We have a more balanced team than we’ve had in the past.”
Benet will face Curie in the semifinals on Thursday.
Freshman Jeremiah Fears led Joliet West with 15 points and junior Jayden Martin scored 10. It was a rough shooting game for most of the team.
The Tigers shocked Bloom in a first round upset and were the first team in recent memory to advance to the Pontiac quarterfinals with a record below .500.
“Fears is going to be unbelievable and Martin is a heck of a player,” Heidkamp said. “They can hurt. We played pretty well defensively.”