By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Bishop LeBlond was hopeful for a strong finish to their regular season in February.
After consecutive losses to Savannah, Lafayette and then St. Pius X on Tuesday, the Eagles had one more chance to right the ship before districts.
They took advantage.
The Eagles (15-10) snapped their three-game losing skid, ending the game on a 12-1 run in a 50-37 win over Benton (12-9) at Springer Gymnasium on Thursday night.
"The key to this game tonight was just how tough we were," LeBlond head coach Mitch Girres said. "Our kids played extremely tough and physical. What I'm most proud of is how they played together. I felt like tonight was one of the best team games that we played in a long time."
LeBlond set the tone right away, jumping out to a 9-2 first quarter lead before Benton settled down to make it a 15-11 ballgame after the first eight minutes.
The game remained neck-and-neck for the next 2.5 quarters, but the Eagles never lost the lead, going up 25-22 at halftime and 36-32 after the third.
Five different players made a three-pointer for LeBlond through the first three quarters, which helped the Eagles get off to a fast start and maintain their lead.
"When you get some confidence going early, it just continues through the game," Girres said. "We kind of let up a little bit there in the second half and they tied it, but we never lost the lead which I think is important. Our kids really battled and held in there."
Benton started the fourth quarter on a 4-0 run to tie the game at 36 early in the period, but the last five minutes belonged to LeBlond.
After scoring eight third quarter points, senior Jeffrey Johnston continued to get the ball in the lane, and continued to score. The future Missouri Western golfer scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half.
"Offensively, we really played well all game," Johnston said. "We really stepped on defense in the second half, and that really helped us get momentum toward the offense and make some good plays."
Sophomore Denver Domann and junior Kason Mauzey, who've been as good as any forwards in the region this season, combined for 22 points through three quarters.
The Eagles limited the Cardinals' big two to just combined three points in the final frame. Benton as a team made only one field goal and scored just five points in the entire fourth quarter.
"(Mauzey and Domann) are both big, physical, athletic kids," Girres said. "That's a tough matchup for us. Jeffrey is our only big guy, and he held his own tonight. He played tough, grabbed rebounds. Jake Korell did a great job on Kason Mauzey, who's a fantastic player. Pound-for-pound, Jake did a fabulous job defending him tonight, and making things tough on him."
With some new found confidence, and just their second win in the month of February, LeBlond now turns their attention toward the Class 2 District 16 tournament, where they are the one-seed and get a first round bye.
LeBlond will host either Rock Port or Albany on Tuesday night at 6 p.m.
"We really needed this win to help us get confidence for districts," Johnston said. "If we lose, we're out. So, it just helps us build momentum and keep moving forward."
"We're fortunate to get a game at home," Girres said. "It's postseason basketball. Anything can happen. We just need to continue to play tough."
Benton closes out its regular season at home in a rescheduled Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Classic against Richmond on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Bishop LeBlond 50 - 15, 10, 11, 14
Benton 37 - 11, 11, 10, 5
Bishop LeBlond scorers - Jeffrey Johnston - 19, Jake Korell - 11, Isaac Ferguson - 9, Chris Guldan - 3, Hayden Cross - 3, Noah Eidmann - 3, Landon Gardner - 2
Benton scorers - Kason Mauzey - 13, Denver Domann - 12, Allan Coy - 6, Adrian Byrd - 4, Carson Newlon - 2
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.