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PRINCETON — St. Bede boys basketball coach Mike Kilmartin warned his squad that Friday’s regular season finale against NCIC rival Princeton might be a trap game.
The Bruins were able to survive the trap — but just barely — as they held on in the fourth quarter to capture a 46-45 win over the Tigers and lock up a share of the final NCIC league title.
“I think (Princeton) beat us three years in a row here (at Prouty Gymnasium). The kids knew that. … A factor of course was it was their last game on their floor. We played (in that situation) Tuesday night and played tremendous. I told the kids (Princeton) would do that,” Kilmartin said. “You can tell the kids this is an important game, win the conference with however many (three) teams we’ve got, but they’re thinking about Bureau Valley (who the Bruins face Tuesday in the Class 2A BV Regional semifinals). It’s just human nature. Because if you do lose, what does it mean? What does it really mean?”
The Bruins entered the second half up 25-24 courtesy of a Sam Lucas jumper in the closing seconds of the second quarter and carried that momentum into the second half as they increased their lead all the way to 11 points at 40-29 on a Lucas 3-pointer with 6:50 to play in the game.
But the Tigers weren’t going to go down without a fight as they rattled off an 8-0 run capped by a free throw line jumper from senior Austen Stewart to pull to within three at 40-37 with 1:49 left.
St. Bede senior Grant Bosnich kept the Bruins out in front with a pair of free throws off the bonus, but PHS responded with a clutch 3 from senior Josh Kieffer to pull to 42-40 with 46.1 seconds left.
Bosnich again calmly deposited another pair of bonus free throws with 33 seconds left, but the action wasn’t over yet.
Austin Mack converted on a reverse layup to pull PHS back within a basket at 44-42, but Lucas knocked down another pair of foul shots for the Academy to put the Bruins out in front 46-42.
Stewart kept the Tigers’ hopes alive with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1.8 ticks left to pull within a single tally for the first time since intermission, but St. Bede ran the final time off the clock with a long heave down court to preserve the victory.
“I’m definitely proud of the effort. The third quarter we just made a few too many mistakes,” said PHS coach Jesse Brandt, whose squad registered only five points in the third frame. “But give our guys credit — they battled all the way to the end, the last second. But we couldn’t pull it off.”
Kieffer led a trio of Tigers in double-digit scoring with 12 points. Evenson and Mack both added 10 for PHS (6-21, 0-4), which will face Hall at 7:30 p.m. Monday in play-in game at the Class 2A BV Regional.
Senior Damin Smith led St. Bede (22-5, 3-1) with 13 points. Lucas added nine tallies and senior center Joe Pyszka had eight.
Notes: The Bruins finished a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul stripe, including a pair of three-point plays from Smith. … St. Bede won the sophomore contest 53-52. Justin Shaw-Lushina led the Academy with 20, while Garrett Duffin notched a game-best 26 for PHS.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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