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La Salle-Peru senior Adam Happ (No. 3) drives the lane against Ottawa’s Cody Stokes during the Cavaliers’ 64-50 victory Friday in a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division game in Ottawa. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
OTTAWA — La Salle-Peru post player Jon VonBehren spent his offseason working on his shot.
It improved enough that second-year Cavalier coach Jim Cherveny has given VonBehren the green light to shoot from the outside.
VonBehren took advantage Friday night.
The senior knocked down two critical 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers drained nine 3s in the second half to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 64-50 victory over rival Ottawa in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division opener for both teams.
“For us seniors, this is the last time we’re going to play at Kingman and it was just nuts,” VonBehren said of the comeback. “We thought we were in trouble in the first half being down eight. Then we came out and won by double digits. It’s just a great team win. Everybody’s just happy right now.”
After hitting just 1-of-9 from 3-point range in the first half as they fell behind 25-17 at intermission, the Cavs caught fire from downtown in the third quarter.
Senior guard Cameron Hight drained back-to-back 3-pointers, then VonBehren sank his first of the night on the next possession to pull L-P within a point at 27-26.
The Cavs took their first lead of the game at 33-31 when Hight and Noah Lamboley knocked down treys on consecutive possessions.
“Our offense is based purely off of the best open shot,” Cherveny said when asked if the Cavs were looking for the outside shot in the second half. “Jon VonBehren stepped up and knocked down some big 3s for us tonight. Noah hit some, Cam Hight hit some big 3s for us. When they’re falling, we can be a very good shooting team.”
The game was tied at 36-36 entering the fourth quarter after Ottawa’s Austin Bowden scored at the buzzer, but the Cavs took the lead for good at 41-38 on a 3-pointer by Adam Happ.
VonBehren then hit his back-to-back 3-pointers — the second coming with 5:56 left — to spark an 18-5 run by the Cavs that gave L-P a 59-45 lead with 1:33 left.
The Cavs closed out the comeback with 7-of-12 free throw shooting down the stretch. “I thought the second half we played outstanding,” Cherveny said. “We shot the ball well. We defended well the second half.
“(At halftime), we just talked about things we needed to tweak. Defensively, we needed to close out shooters better. I thought they were getting too many open looks. Offensively, we took some shots that just weren’t out of the flow of the offense (in the first half).”
Jens Soderholm led four Cavs in double figures with 21 points. He also grabbed 15 rebounds. VonBehren had 16 points and 11 boards, Hight scored 14 points and Lamboley added 10 for L-P (3-2, 1-0 NIB 12 West).
John Carroll led the Pirates (3-2, 0-1) with 21 points and seven rebounds. He scored 14 of his points in the first half.
“We got off to a good start. We actually had a chance to gain a little more separation than we did,” Ottawa coach Mark Cooper said. “We have to learn from what went wrong in the second half tonight. We didn’t respond well to the run they put on us and consequently, the game got away from us in a hurry.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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