PERU — St. Bede hosted a strong Peoria Notre Dame team on Senior Night on Tuesday. Both teams played with intensity for 32 minutes, but in the end, St. Bede walked away victorious with a final score of 58-55.
The Bruins’ Damin Smith led the game with 23 points. Shea Feehan led Notre Dame with 17 points.
St. Bede had 11 three-pointers on the night.
“We led most of the game, yes. But we had great composure down the stretch,” Bruin’s coach Mike Kilmartin said. “They were jacked up for Senior Night. Your either going to be off or you’re going to be good. We chose the latter.”
The Bruins have also only lost one home game in the last two seasons.
St. Bede came out of the gate at full speed with Brad Groleau and Smith combining to hit four shots from downtown early. Notre Dame was able to keep pace though, and after the end of the first, St. Bede had a small lead 16-13.
The three-point shooting cooled a bit in the second as the Bruins only managed to nail one. However, the mounting difference between the Bruins and the Irish was that the Bruins managed one more point on offensive possessions early in the game. At halftime, St. Bede was up 27-23.
The beginning of the third quarter was a perfect snap shot of the game. Smith opened up with a quick three and Notre Dame responded netting a two-point shot.
Then St. Bede’s Joey Pyszka got his first basket of the game early in the quarter. That’s when the Bruins began to distance themselves. Naturally, in between Pyszka’s first and second baskets, Smith went ahead and hit another three.
At that point, the Bruins had built a 12-point lead, and it looked as if this one might begin to get out of hand for Notre Dame. Not so fast. Feehan hit five free throws and Nick Bell made a quick drive into the paint laying the ball and drawing a foul. Bell completed the traditional three-point play, and just like that, St. Bede was only ahead by five points, 37-32.
“We had one lapse that put them right back in the game when we let them drive in and we fouled. But nobody helped, and Shea Feehan got in his lane. He’s a small Division one player, and we know who he is. We had to cover him. I told the coaches I thought that took about eight seconds, and they said no, it took about four because of the foul,” Kilmartin said.
Then the Bruins fouled Feehan again as he fired off a long ball. He didn’t make the basket, but he did convert all of the free throws. St. Bede was only up four at that point, 39-35. Feehan chased his free throws with a jumper as Notre Dame threatened to take the lead. Sam Lucas answered with another Bruin three-pointer and they managed to keep the lead 42-39 going into the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, things remained fairly clean, but intensely competitive. Notre Dame struck first getting within one for the first time in several minutes. Then, Pyszka hit a jumper to put the Bruins back up by three.
The teams then decided to have a de facto three-point contest. Feehan kicked things off hitting a three of his own to tie things up 44-44. But St. Bede won the brief competition leading 50-47 when the exchanges stopped. Notre Dame then managed to get one point at the free throw line followed by a field goal from Nic Reynolds to tie it back up at 50-50.
That’s when a technical foul was charged to Notre Dame. It was unclear what sparked the call. Kilmartin sent Ethan Duttinger in to take the shots. He was one of two giving St. Bede a dubious 51-50 lead. Notre Dame was able to get a stop, and then Feehan got them their first lead of the game, 52-51, with less than two minutes to go.
It didn’t last long. They say you live and die by the three, and tonight St. Bede lived by it. Lucas shot another three to put the Bruins back ahead. Smith widened the lead with a lay-up, putting the Bruins up 56-52 with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Reynolds answered making a field goal while taking a foul. He proceeded to make the free throw, and with less than 30 seconds left, it was once again a one-point game, 56-55.
Notre Dame quickly fouled and Lucas went to the line to shoot one and one. He hit both.
“I don’t look. I let the crowd tell me whether they are going in or not,” Kilmartin said of the free throws.
Notre Dame then received the ball for a chance to knot things up with a three-point play. The Irish managed to get an open look and a clean shot, but it hit the back of the rim and St. Bede got the ball.
“Sometimes you have to be lucky,” Kilmartin said.
Regarding his seniors, Kilmartin commented, “Good athletes, great kids.”