Evening session of the first day of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament

    Charlie Dollard had exceptional timing for the Benet boys basketball team Thursday evening in first-night action of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
    The senior guard had back-to-back slashing drives while getting fouled for all 5 of his points against famed state power Peoria Manual.
    But the second score, a three-point play, gave the Redwings their first double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter.
    Benet dominated play in the final quarter in claiming a 57-46 victory over the Rams.
    The Redwings (11-1) will meet fourth-seeded Bloomington, which dispatched Warren, in the third quarterfinal on Friday afternoon.
    “We took what they gave us,” Dollard said of his twin drives that gave Benet a 49-38 lead. “We let the game come to us. They were pressing us.”
    Dollard more than took advantage of the Redwings’ ability to solve the press as Benet captured its sixth consecutive win in the process.
    The two Benet main guns, post Colin Crothers and power forward Kendrick Tchoua, collaborated with great effect on the low block.
    Capitalizing on second-chance opportunities and excellent interior passing, Crothers’ game-high 19 points were ably complemented by Tchoua adding 18 more.
    “We had a size advantage,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “Offensive rebounding is a big part of our team because we don’t score many points off our defense.”
    Crothers and Tchoua scored all but 3 of the Redwings’ 28 first-half points as Benet had a 6-point lead at the break.
    On separate occasions in the second quarter, Tchoua had power moves on the inside for consecutive low-post buckets.
    “They were getting a lot more rebounds than us,” Manual starting center Josh Ivory said. “Our intensity wasn’t as high as theirs.”
    But Manual still hung touch until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
    The Redwings’ spread was narrowed to four after Manual (5-4) limited Bejet to 9 third-quarter points.
    But Benet showcased more weapons as Will Engels, the only returning starter other than Carothers, had 5 of his 7 points on consecutive field goals to begin the quarter.
    “I just let the game come to me,” said Engels. “How many points I score, I don’t care as long as we get the win.”
    The opening fourth-quarter possession boded well for Benet when Tchoua slashed his way for a score.
    Engels’ putback on the Redwings’ ensuing possession was part of an 18-7 run that allowed Heidkamp to empty the bench in the closing moments.
    Rolando Brown paced Manual with 15 points.
OPRF 60, West Aurora 56
    Matt Maloney had seen this movie before.
    But the Oak Park-River Forest coach had a much different outcome to his liking than a year ago.
    As a junior at Curie last year, Marquise Walker hit a 3-pointer as time expired to deny the Huskies a PHT championship berth.
    Thursday night in the finale, Walker, who transferred to West Aurora last spring, had the ball in his hands in the waning seconds as the Blackhawks sought to rally from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit.
    But Walker had his baseline-left floater for tie fall short as the Huskiea' Josh Smith converted two free throws in the final half seccond to secure a 60-56 victory for OPRF.
    The Huskies (7-4) will face top-seeded and undefeated Bloom in the fourth quarterfinal Friday night.
    West Aurora (9-3) had its five-game winning streak snapped.
    Charlie Hoehne matched his season-best of 18 points to lead the Huskies in scoring.
    OPRF trailed only twice, both times coming when the Blackhawks' Traevon Brown hit his first two 3-pointers of the game.
    "We came out ready to play," Hoehne said. "We did a good job of playing defense and sharing the ball."
    Maloney used a balanced offensive attack against the Blackhawks, who suffered from poor shot selection and turnovers in falling behind 12-8 after the first quarter and 31-22 at halftime. Hoehne and Anthony Roberts had scores in the final minute of the third quarter for a 13-point advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
    OPRF appeared on cruise control when Hoehne had the last of his field goals on low-post moves to extend the lead to its largest at 51-37.
    But the inevitable West Aurora response was soon coming.
    "West Aurora has a great tradition," Maloney said. "(Former coach) Gordie Kerkman was a true legend. It was quite a thrill for me to pick his brain on how to build a program."
    Seldom-used reserve Axel Motola was the catalyst for the Blackhawks.
The West Aurora sophomore completely turned the team fortunes with his aggressive play in transition, on the glass and from the perimeter.
    Motola scored 16 of his team-high 18 points after the intermission.
    The forward had a slashing three-point play to halve the Blackhawks' deficit to three points one minute,seven seconds to play.
    "I was just playing hard for my team," Motola said. "I can do a lot of things to help my team."
    Another West Aurora bench player, Dimitrios Bazos converted two free throws to again reduce the Huskies' lead in half.
    West Aurora had a chance to tie or take the lead after forcing an OPRF turnover with 14.6 seconds to play.
    But OPRF breathed a sigh of relieft after Walker came up short and Brown subsequently turned the ball over following the Huskies' botching the front end of a one-and-one.
    "We took a lot of bad shots," Maloney said of the Huskies' fourth quarter. "We didn't run clock. It was the opposite way to play with a 14-point lead."