St. Ignatius wasn’t shy about proclaiming its lofty goals for the season back in November. The high expectations came from inside the program and outside it. The Wolfpack began the season ranked fourth in the preseason Super 25.
Things went off the rails almost immediately. St. Ignatius lost to Lake Forest and Loyola in the first week of the season. After a loss to St. Louis Chaminade in the Chicago Elite Classic, the Wolfpack were sitting at 3-4, and many fans wondered whether all the early hype had any merit.
Things didn’t improve over the holidays. Conant shocked St. Ignatius with a game-winning buzzer-beater in the first round of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York.
So is it premature to declare the Wolfpack are back after knocking off No. 21 Bolingbrook 56-46 in the Steve Pappas Shootout on Saturday at DePaul Prep? Senior AJ Redd doesn’t think so.
‘‘This is it,’’ Redd said. ‘‘This is it. We’ve struggled in this first half of the season, and we’ve just been working so hard to get back to this point where we know we can be.’’
St. Ignatius lost by two points Friday at Brother Rice. Junior Ahmad Henderson made a three-pointer in the final seconds to give the Crusaders the victory.
‘‘That was a bit of a moral victory for us,’’ Redd said. ‘‘Because after that, we knew exactly what we had to do. It was just a matter of a few missed coverages and missed shots. Today is the victory we needed mentally to get over that hump.’’
Redd led St. Ignatius (9-7) with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Senior Miles Casey added 12 points and five rebounds, junior Kolby Gilles 10 points and junior Jackson Kotecki seven points and seven rebounds.
‘‘There is nothing better than everyone getting involved,’’ Casey said. ‘‘That felt great, and it is going to continue to feel great if we keep playing like that.’’
The Wolfpack dominated the first half and led 35-17. But the Raiders made a charge in the third quarter, holding St. Ignatius to four points.
Sophomore Josh Aniceto’s basket with 5:16 left cut the Wolfpack’s lead to five, but St. Ignatius didn’t fold this time. Bolingbrook didn’t make a field goal for the rest of the game.
‘‘The letdowns have happened so many times this season that we are used to it,’’ Casey said. ‘‘But now we know what to do when times get tough. We can bounce back now, and we’re a better team because of it.’’
The Raiders’ Michael Osei-Bonsu continued to perform at an All-Area level. The 6-4 senior had 15 points and 15 rebounds. Senior Danny Walker added 10 points and seven rebounds for Bolingbrook (13-4).
The Raiders were upset by Andrew on Friday and are facing an extremely challenging stretch of games against Oswego East, Homewood-Flossmoor and New Trier.
‘‘This is going to get us ready for March,’’ Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. ‘‘I love my team; that’s the important thing right now. Even if we had come back to win this game, the stuff we need to work on is exactly the same. Winning and losing is not the biggest piece of it right now. We need to get better together.’’