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Wild Benet rally stuns
nationally ranked Homestead (Ind.)

Redwings roar back from 21-point deficit

 

By Matt Le Cren

 
VILLA PARK -- It was a fantastic finish for the ages.
 
Elise Stout swished her fourth three-pointer of the game with three seconds to go, and Kathleen Doyle stole the ensuing inbounds pass and split a pair of free throws with :00.9 remaining as Benet completed a massive rally to upset Homestead (Fort Wayne, Ind.) 58-55 Saturday night at the Subway Classic at Willowbrook High School.
 
It wasn’t the biggest win in school history but it was the most amazing comeback.
 
Unbeaten Homestead came into the game as the top-ranked Class 4A team in Indiana and was ranked 12th in the nation by USA Today.
 
The Lady Spartans appeared ready to improve their record to 18-0 as they took a 33-12 lead with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter.
 
But Benet, the reigning Illinois Class 4A state champions, staged perhaps the biggest rally in school history when the Redwings outscored Homestead 46-22 over the final 19 minutes to pull off the stunning victory.
 
“They’re a very good team, and we actually spent a fair amount of time prepping them, so it was a little disappointing when the things we’d practice we just weren’t doing,” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. “It just didn’t feel to me like we were competing in the first half.
 
“I said at halftime, 'Let’s get it to 9 at the end of the third.' We got it to 10 – and then chip away after that. Part of it was I found sort of a little bit different combination that had a little bit more energy.”
 
While most of Benet’s scoring came from the usual suspects, the method was unusual.
 
Junior center Katie Jaseckas, who missed her lone shot attempt in the first half, erupted to score all of her career-high 19 points after intermission. 
She went 7-for-7 from the floor, with four of the shots from three-point land.
 
“Katie’s a good three-point shooter, she just doesn’t do it for us that much,” Kilbride said. “It was kind of the way they were guarding her today. They were sinking off of her, and she was teeing it up.”
 
Jaseckas made three treys in the third quarter, the last of which came from the right corner off a pass from Clara Prasse that pulled the Redwings (17-2) within 50-40 at the end of the period. 
 
Homestead had taken a 39-20 halftime lead on the fourth of Madisen Parker’s six three-pointers.
 
“At the beginning we weren’t ourselves, but we came out in the second half unbelievable and we were fired up and we knew that we could win the game,” Jaseckas said. “We weren’t upset (at halftime), but we knew that we had to pick up our game if we wanted to beat them. And I was sitting there, and I was thinking to myself, ‘I really need to pick it up, and I’m here for a reason.’ So I just came out fired up.”
 
Jaseckas is Benet’s back-to-the-basket post player but has been working on her outside shot for her AAU team. She hasn’t taken many threes for the Redwings but has made most of those.
 
“I have confidence in my shot now,” Jaseckas said. “I actually went to the gym before the game, because I knew it was going to be a really good game. So I shot around, got loose and I was ready.”
 
While their third quarter performance was encouraging, the Redwings still trailed 55-44 after Parker’s final trey with 4:25 left in the fourth quarter.
But Homestead did not score again.
 
Jaseckas scored on an inside basket at the 3:55 mark, triggering what turned into a closing 14-0 run.
 
The Spartans tried to slow the game down, not a bad strategy considering Benet had four fouls to give when they went into the stall. But they missed two shots and then turned it over on their last four possessions.
 
Doyle, meanwhile, did her thing. The Nebraska-bound point guard scored only six points on 3-for-11 shooting but once again found a way to will her team to victory. She dished five-of-her-six assists and made both of her steals down the stretch.
 
First, Doyle found freshman Lauren Stark for a layup and then fed Stout for a three-pointer.
 
Following a Homestead turnover, Doyle passed to Jaseckas, who drained a trey from the top of the key to cut the gap to 55-54 with 56.7 ticks left.
 
Then it was Stout’s turn to shine.
 
The senior sparkplug made a steal with 21 seconds and gave the ball to Doyle. 
Kilbride opted to keep his remaining timeout in his pocket -- despite being down a point -- and let his players win or lose on their own.
 
The tactic worked. Doyle drove into the lane as the seconds melted away. She was confronted by Homestead center Jazmyne Geist and another defender.
 
Rather than force a shot, Doyle passed to a wide-open Stout on the right wing and Stout drained the go-ahead trey with three seconds left.
 
“I was attacking the basket first,” Doyle said. “We were only down by (one), so I was just attacking the basket and Elise’s defender collapsed on the gap pretty hard.
 
“I have a ton of confidence in Elise’s shooting ability, so I knew we were going to win the game when I passed the ball.”
 
So too did Stout, who finished with a career-high 20 points.
 
“Kathleen took a great drive,” Stout said. “She saw me, and she kicked it out. And I just shot it like normal, hoped that it went in, and it did.”
 
Was it the biggest shot of Stout’s career?
 
“Probably yes, so far,” Stout said. “We usually just go from Kathleen’s drive, and she’s great at making plays and making things happen off the drive. She saw me, and I just put it up.”
 
Stout’s dagger gave the Redwings a 57-55 lead, the first time they led since a 7-4 edge three minutes into the game.
 
Following a timeout, Homestead had a chance to tie or take the lead but the inbounds pass was stolen at half court by Doyle, who made her first free throw and missed the second before the Redwings stole the outlet pass.
 
“We did not play very well first half,” Stout said. “Second half we came out just kind of focused more, looked to stay composed. We were helping a lot and shooters were getting open on the other team (in the first half), so we just perfected our defense and kept being more patient on offense.”
 
No one could have foreseen the finish after the Spartans dismantled Benet’s defense with ease in the first half.
 
Homestead drained seven treys, four of which came during a 14-0 run that broke a 9-9 tie, and outscored the Redwings 24-3 during a 9:39 stretch bridging the first and second quarters.
 
Florida recruit Karissa McLaughlin, a junior guard who is Homestead’s career scoring leader with 1,542 points, tallied 15 of her game-high 23 points and Parker had 12-of-her 18 during the opening half as the Spartans made 14-of-24 shots while Benet went 8 for 25.
 
But the Redwings never gave up.
 
“I liked their resilience,” Kilbride said. “Our start was so bad. You get down 19 to a team like that, and you could have easily folded and just go home.
 
“I like the way they battled back possession by possession in the second half.”
 
And they did it as a unit.
 
“Look at that last play,” Kilbride marveled. “Kathleen didn’t have a great game for herself offensively, so she gets that steal and comes down and delivers it to Stout, who is having a really good day.
 
“She could have taken that (shot); instead she went to the kid that’s been lighting it up for us.”
 
Aside from Stout and Jaseckas, no one else was lighting up the scoreboard for the Redwings, but several players had a hand in the comeback. Ali Kramer scored six points on 3-for-5 shooting, while Stack and Prasse each scored three. Stack added four rebounds, and Prasse had two rebounds, an assist and a steal in limited minutes.
 
“Emma Lyne didn’t play a ton in the first second half, but she was good in the first half chasing (McLaughlin) around,” Kilbride noted. “Prasse, Stack and Kramer gave us good minutes. We got some good contributions from a bunch of kids and found a combination that sort of got it going.”
 
While this win has no bearing on playoff seeding, it could do much to get the Redwings going in the next few weeks before they begin defense of their state title.
 
“I think we were all pretty bittersweet about (finishing third at) that Montini tournament,” Stout said. “I think this just gives us that reassuring confidence that we can come back and win as long as we stay tough throughout the game and keep our energy up.”
 
So where does this win rank?
 
“It’s always fun to represent Illinois and bring down the no. 1 team in Indiana,” Doyle said. “So it’s nothing like the state tournament, but it’s pretty close to that.
 
“Just coming back from a 19-point (halftime) deficit is ridiculous. It just gives us a ton of confidence that we can beat anybody no matter what kind of hole we’re in.”
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