With the La Salle-Peru boys basketball team down by nine points against Streator to start the fourth quarter Friday in La Salle, Cavaliers senior guard Jens Soderholm knew someone would have to get the L-P offense jump started.
Despite picking up his fourth foul and a seat on the bench midway through the third quarter, Soderholm took it upon himself to lead the charge.
Soderholm scored 14 of his game-high 28 points with a determined scoring effort upon returning to the floor in the fourth quarter and the L-P defense held Streator to just six points over that span as the Cavaliers rallied to claim a 54-48 Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division win over the Bulldogs.
“We just needed to keep our composure,” Soderholm said. “We kind of got a little shaky with the ball. We didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know what we wanted to do. We just needed to take a few deep breaths and set some offense up and just get the ball in the hole.
“I just felt like I had to come out and bring the energy being in foul trouble and not in the game too much. We needed to score. We were down nine and we just needed points at the time. I just had to trust myself to not get too crazy and get another foul and get out of the game.”
Soderholm started the Cav comeback with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to open the scoring for the fourth quarter.
Streator’s Nolan Sokol responded with a 3-pointer of his own on the other end, but that’s when Soderholm and the Cavalier defense — which forced six fourth quarter turnovers — took over.
Soderholm converted a three-point play after being fouled on a drive and continued to score the next six points for L-P on 2-of-4 shooting from the foul stripe and a pair of jumpers.
His run tied the game at 45-45 with 2:40 to play.
Sokol momentarily cooled the rally with another 3-pointer for Streator, but L-P iced the win with tough defense and 9-of-9 shooting from the foul line in the final 2:09 with 5-of-5 fouls shots coming from Noah Lamboley to go with a pair apiece for Soderholm and Jon VonBehren.
“I think our experience paid off,” said L-P coach Jim Cherveny, whose team remained unbeaten in the NIB 12 West with the win. “We’ve got a good core group of kids who have been in this situation before and know how to handle this situation and know when to turn it up. They did tonight, I’m really proud of them for that.”
Lamboley joined Soderholm in double-digit scoring for the Cavs with 12 points, including 9-for-9 shooting from the foul stripe.
Sokol led Streator (5-12, 0-6) with 20 points, including five 3-pointers. Houch added 11 points and grabbed a team-best seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who led 17-16 after the first quarter, 28-26 at halftime and 42-33 after three quarters.
Soderholm said the comeback win would help season the Cavs (12-6, 6-0 NIB 12 West) for the postseason.
“This win is big,” he said. “When postseason time comes later and we’re down, this will be a good learning experience for us to be able to do it again. Hopefully, we won’t have to do it again, but being in this situation benefits us big time.”
Notes: L-P won the sophomore contest 62-46. … At halftime, L-P junior Haley Duncan, an outside hitter on the L-P volleyball team, showed off her skills at basketball court as she connected on a layup, a 3-point shot and a half-court shot in under 30 seconds to earn every fan in attendance six free. Her brother, Alex, also connected on all three shots recently.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.