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Benet comeback comes up just short in state title game

Trailing by 11 late in fourth quarter, Redwings battle back before falling 46-44

PEORIA – An 11-point deficit with under three minutes to play against one of the top teams in the country?

That scenario didn't faze Benet's boys basketball team.

Facing highly regarding Young in the Class 4A state championship game at Carver Arena Saturday night, the Redwings battled back from that sizable deficit but ultimately fell 46-44.

"I think this team is very, very good, and I thought we proved it by the way we played," said Benet head coach Gene Heidkamp, who guided the Redwings to their first state trophy since a third place finish in 1979.

"We struggled shooting in the first half but I told them at halftime to keep battling. We came up a little bit short, but I can't be any prouder of our guys. They showed they deserved to be in the state championship game. That was evident in the way they played."

Young's Jahlil Okafor drove for dunk that gave the Dolphins a 42-31 lead with 3:07 to play, and then Benet (25-8) mounted its comeback.

Liam Nelligan drained a 3-pointer with 2:25 to go, and Collin Pellettieri answered a Young layup with a 3-pointer off Josh Yesufu's feed to make it 44-37 with 1:11 left.

Pellettieri hit another three after a missed Young (28-5) free throw, and Sean O'Mara's bucket following another Dolphins' miss from the line made it a 44-42 game.

Paul White hit both ends of a one-and-one to put Young up 46-42 with 19.5 seconds left on the clock. Nelligan cut to the basket for a layup with five seconds left, but Benet was out of timeouts and the clock ticked down to zero.

The Redwings fell behind 6-0 in the first before Bonnett broke the dry spell with a midrange jumper with 5:33 to play in the frame. Benet shot a respectable 4-of-9 in the first quarter, but still trailed 18-10 as the Dolphins were 8-of-12 from the field.

Both teams struggled in the second quarter, Benet going 2-of-10 and Young 3-of-10. Nelligan's buzzer-beating layup made it 25-15 at intermission.

Bonnett scored a team-high 12 points for Benet, and Pellettieri added 11. O'Mara scored eight, Nelligan had seven, and Yesufu tallied six.

Young's Miles Reynolds scored a game-high 19 points and was the only Dolphin in double figures.

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