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GENESEO — In crunch time, the La Salle-Peru boys basketball team got Jens Soderholm the ball.
In a game that was close throughout with neither team ever leading by more than six points, the Cavaliers turned to the 6-foot-5 senior in the fourth quarter. And he delivered.
Soderholm scored 13 of the team’s 14 points in the final eight minutes to lift the Cavs to a 54-52 victory over Geneseo in a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division game.
“It’s nice to have the ball and have my teammates trust me to have the ball in the fourth quarter,” Soderholm said. “If the shots are going in, they want to keep feeding me.”
They sure did.
Soderholm took a shot on eight of L-P’s 14 possessions in the fourth quarter.
He banked in a 3-pointer, made 4-of-4 free throws, scored in the post, scored on a putback and had a thunderous dunk off a steal.
“I just trusted my teammates to get me the ball,” Soderholm said. “I got some good looks in the post, so I took advantage of the looks I got.”
Soderholm finished with a game-high 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field and 10-of-12 from the foul line. He also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and swiped a game-best six steals.
“I thought his defense got his offense going,” L-P coach Jim Cherveny said. “He deflected a couple passes. He had six steals tonight. I think when you work really hard on the defensive end, it kind of motivates you to play offense. I think that’s what happened to Jens tonight. He got himself excited by getting some stops and getting some big rebounds. I think it translated to his offensive performance.”
Soderholm’s performance helped the Cavs (13-7, 7-0 NIB 12 West) pull out a victory in a game that was a battle throughout.
It was tied at 16-16 after the first quarter, Geneseo led 26-25 at halftime and it was tied at 40-40 entering the fourth quarter.
“I thought we played a pretty good game,” said Cherveny, whose team beat the Maple Leafs 60-44 on Jan. 4 at L-P. “We knew it’d be tough on the road in the conference. We expected it to be a battle. Geneseo played a great game and I thought we played pretty tough as a group tonight.”
The Maple Leafs (8-13, 3-4 NIB 12 West) had the momentum entering the fourth quarter after Jordan Mielke and Jordan Starkey hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 38 seconds of the third to tie the game.
“That’s just part of the game,” Cherveny said. “We have an experienced group here that’s seen these situations before. They don’t get flustered. It says a lot about the maturity and leadership on this team. They know they are in any game. It doesn’t matter if we are at McHenry down 18 or down to the final minute against Streator or a neck-and-neck game here.”
L-P took the lead for good at 49-47 on a post basket by Soderholm with 3:15 left. Geneseo pulled within one at 53-52 with 1:16 left, but L-P held on down the stretch by forcing a pair of turnovers in the final minute.
After L-P’s Bret Storm missed a pair of free throws with five seconds left, Starkey grabbed the rebound and dribbled up court, but his desperation shot missed at the buzzer.
“I think our defense stepped up toward the end,” Cherveny said. “Devin Stoker came in and did a nice job down low. Jon VonBehren had one heck of a game defensively. We put him on one of their better players and he had to play inside and outside. I think our defense is what won if for us in the final few minutes.”
Notes: Freshman Brady Huebbe scored his first varsity points for L-P with a 3-pointer in the third quarter. … The L-P sophomore team won 44-42. Erik Milaicki scored the winning basket on a steal and layup with 10 seconds left. He led the team with 11 points. Ben Bejster had 10 points for L-P (14-4, 6-1 NIB 12 West).
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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