Making it to the state basketball tournament is never easy, but the Mater Dei Knights made it look that way Tuesday night at the Class 2A Carbondale Super-Sectional.
They closed out the first half on a 26-7 run and reeled off 20 straight points during one hot stretch on the way to a dominant 64-38 victory over Carterville that included 22 points from senior Ben Lampe.
Lampe’s father, Jim Lampe, was a teammate of Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg on the 1984 Mater Dei team that suffered a painful loss on the same floor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s SIU Arena.
Thirty one years later, the Knights left the floor with smiles on their faces and hotel reservations for the state tournament in Peoria.
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“It’s exciting and it’s a dream come true,” said Lampe, whose 24-10 team will face Chicago Uplift in the 2A semifinals at 8:15 p.m. Friday in Peoria. “My dad was on Coach Schadegg’s super-sectional team, so that’s always been a personal goal of mine to outdo him. To finally do it with this great team is amazing.”
What did Lampe’s father tell him before the game?
“Be calm and just play your basketball,” his son said. “You have the talent, you can do what it takes Just go out there and have fun.”
The Knights had a lot of fun — all at the expense of the Lions (25-5).
“It was tough to recover when you down to a quality team like that,” Carterville coach Scott Burzynksi said. “You have to scramble defensively, you have to make shots. You try to get back in it real quick. It was hard to do.”
Senior center Nolan Gerling added 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Knights while Sam Toennies, Zach Haake and Zack Deiters contributed nine points each.
“This is awesome, I’ve been waiting for this my whole life,” Gerling said. “I think we were really pumped up to go. Let’s hope we can keep it up and keep going.”
Gerling said there was no doubt the Knights wanted to help their coach get to state after he was unable to as a Mater Dei player.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for coach for a while now,” Gerling said. “He lost the super-sectional and now we won it for him. It feels good.”
Mater Dei’s superior defense limited Carterville to a 12-for-50 shooting night (23.1 percent) that included a 5-for-24 night from 3-point range. Lions senior Will Galik finished with 20 points, but no other teammate had more than six.
“That was good basketball for 32 minutes on our part,” Schadegg said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s really an unbelievable feeling right now. Our kids played well, they did exactly what they needed to do. T”
“They zeroed in, they were focused and they got it done.”
The game was tied at 12 when the Knights decided to create a little distance between themselves and Carterville. They ended the first half on a 26-7 run that gave them a 38-19 lead at halftime.
Different Mater Dei players responded at different times in the opening half, when the Knights hit 61 percent of their shots (14-for-23) including four of their five 3-point tries. Gerling had 11 points, while Haake and Deiters each contributed a pair of 3-pointers. Point guard Toennies also continued to ignite the offense with seven points in the first half.
A 3-pointer from the corner by Deiters just before the half ended brought the Mater Dei crowd to its feet and pushed the Knights’ lead to 19.
Schadegg and his coaching staff had noticed Carterville’s defense sagging off the perimeter. They were sure to alert Deiters to that fact.
“We talked to him before him that you’re going to have the good looks, it’s a matter of if you’re going to make them or not,” Schadegg said. “The five seniors tonight were incredible ... I’m just very proud of this group.”
The Knights sank four of their five 3-point tries in the first half and 61 percent of their shots overall (14-of-23). Limited to one shot on most of their first-half possessions, the Lions struggled at 6-for-26 from the floor overall and 3-of-12 from 3-point range.
Carterville had no answer in the second half, either as the Knights’ run reached 20-0 before the Lions finally scored on a shot by Will Galik with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Deiters scored Mater Dei’s first nine points in the second half and the Knights lead was a whopping 54-27 after three quarters.
Schadegg and the Knights are looking forward to the school’s first state tourney trip since a second-place finish in 1996.
“I’ve never been there so it’s a new experience for me, but I’m willing to go for sure,” he said. “Winning this game definitely had a lot of value to me. I know it’s a different team and it’s not me any more. It’s not about me, but it took care of some things that were there for a long time.”