by Luke Stanczyk
Behind 23 points from the NAC’s top returning scorer, Nate Green, the Benedictine Eagles were able to start off their regular season with a 69-63 win over the Knox College Prairie Fire.
Green dominated the first half; scoring 18 points, shooting seven of 11 from the field and recording three steals. However, the game was even for most of the half, but BenU was able to put a run together in the final minutes and take a 32-22 lead at halftime.
“[I was] just taking what they gave me,” said Green of his first half performance.” I was just going off of that, and the shots were falling.”
After the Eagles stretched their lead to fifteen in the first seven minutes of the second half, Knox would claw their way back into the contest. The Prairie Fire would go on a 16-4 run in the next five minutes, putting the score at 46-43.
Most of Knox’s damage was done by junior forward Lukas Shaw, as the Oregon native finished with 18 points and a game-high 19 rebounds.
“We struggled with the big guy a little bit, but we overcame that,” Green explained.
With Green sidelined with calf cramps for a short period of time, senior Jamison Montgomery entered and led the Eagles back in control. He and freshman guard and fellow sixth-man Matt Mackowiak were able to come in and make plays in transition.
“Mackowiak, that’s my boy,” Montgomery said when asked about he and Mackowiak’s play off the bench. “We got a little bond going on. Everytime I go to the basket, I expect Mackowiak to do something for me.”
BenU was able to put the game away shortly after. After a three-pointer by Mackowiak and a three-point play by sophomore forward Andy Crutchfield, junior guard Dario Jokic and senior forward Ralph Ogelsby hit three-pointers of their own.
As Benedictine’s lead increased to 11 with four minutes left, the Prairie Fire was unable to mount a comeback.
“It was a hard fought game,” Montgomery said. “I thought we fought through a lot of adversity, and I thought at the end we came through, knocked down some big shots, and got the victory.”
Green finished with a game-high 23 points, five rebounds, and three steals. As far as the cramps that sidelined him for some time in the second half, the senior point guard insists that it is nothing major.
“They were kneeing me in my calf, and I have a little calf issue with cramps,” Green explained. “So, I had caught a couple of cramps. Nothing major though, I should be alright for the next game.”
Also for the Eagles, Mackowiak finished with nine points in just six minutes. Crutchfield (eight points, four rebounds), Ogelsby (eight points, five rebounds) and sophomore guard Mike Woolf (eight points, nine rebounds, three steals) also turned in solid performances.
Up next, the Eagles travel to Bloomington, Illinois to face nationally-ranked Illinois Wesleyan University on Wednesday. BenU returns home on Friday to face Cornell College in a 7 p.m. game at the Rice Center.
“Wesleyan is a really good team, very physical,” Montgomery explained. “So, it’s going to be a very good battle.”