Benedictine men’s basketball advances to final four after weekend wins

by Logan Hanson

The Benedictine Men’s basketball team was victorious in their two tournament games over the weekend with a 97-84 victory over Ohio Wesleyan Friday night and a 93-73 win against Alma Saturday. The wins put Benedictine into the Final Four for the Division III basketball championship tournament, the first Final Four appearance in school history.

The Eagles will play #15 Amherst College in the semifinals of the National Tournament in Salem, Virginia on Friday at 5 p.m. EST. There will be a viewing party on Friday, March 18 in the Coal Ben at 4 p.m.

Benedictine will be providing a fan bus to the game but tickets may be sold out. Check-in for the fan bus will be at BenUnion at 3:15 a.m. on Friday, March 18 and the bus will leave at 3:30 a.m.

“Great win for our school! Proud to be Benedictine and proud of our team,” said Head Coach, Keith Bunkenburg, “Thank you to all the students and staff that came to see us play over the season. We are so grateful for your support and want I to give you two more wins!”

In the first game of the weekend, the Eagles had a tough matchup against #10 Ohio Wesleyan. The teams were neck and neck in the first half of the game as neither team held more than a five point lead during the half. Ohio Wesleyan held the lead for a ten minute stretch during the half, but a 7-0 run by the Eagles near the end of the half gave the team some momentum going into the break with the teams tied 42-42.

Ohio Wesleyan was not deterred coming into the half though as they took another five point lead 61-56 with 15:07 left in the game. From there, the Eagles used some nice plays in the paint including an alley-oop from senior guard John Dodson to Johnson who capped it with a layup in traffic and a made jump shot by junior forward Matt Chaltin tied the game at 64 with 12 minutes left in the game.

After a couple of baskets by both teams, the Eagles went on a 13-0 run, started off by two three point shots by junior forward Shawn Soelter as the Eagles went up 80-68. The Eagles would not give up the lead again as they capped the game with an 8-0 run giving them a 15 point lead and the victory 97-84.

“It was a great team win! Our bench mob is easily one of the best in the country and they showed it again tonight,” said Johnson, “We have a ton of support from people in and out of the school and that means everything to us. Hopefully we can keep it going. Our next game is the most important, just as we have said all year long. Thanks for the support!”
Johnson led the team in scoring with 23 points followed by Dodson with 14. Senior forward Tim Reamer notched nine rebounds off the bench for the Eagles.

In the next game, Benedictine played against Alma College in the Elite Eight of the tournament. The Eagles started the game off strong with an 8-0 run with a pair of threes from Johnson and junior guard Tahron Harvey. Alma caught up a bit bringing the game to 13-9, but a three pointer by Chatlin started the Eagles on a 13-0 they never looked back. The Eagles went into the half up big 44-25.

It was much of the same in the second half as the Eagles started the half on a 7-0 run. The Eagles were deadly from behind the three point line, hitting a barrage of threes to push the lead to 27, the biggest of the game. Junior guard Michael Blaszcyzk lead the three point charge by hitting three in consecutive possessions giving the Eagles a 66-37 lead.

With 3:00 left in the game, Johnson put the exclamation point on the game with a dunk over an Alma defender. The Eagles hit consecutive threes in the final minute to put the dagger in the game, giving them the 93-73 victory.

“It’s always been a dream of ours to make it to the national tournament, and it is crazy to believe that with my teammates by my side that we made it this far,” said Blaszcyzk, “It shows hard work really does pay off and we cannot wait to compete at the highest level in Salem.”

The Eagles hit 17 three pointers in the game and finished the game shooting 56% from the field. Blaszcyzk lead the Eagles in scoring with 20 points and he notched six triples in the contest, Harvey had 16. Johnson finished the game with a double –double with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

The win marked an undefeated home record for the Eagles.