WILMINGTON — Wilmington forward Ben Kreitz doesn’t remember exactly who gave him and his Wildcat teammates a spark during Friday’s home Illinois Central State Eight Conference matchup with Reed-Custer, but he remembered that it came on the defensive end of the floor.
“I think it was whoever got that first stop,” the 6-foot-5 junior said. “We all grew off of that and fought back.”
Whatever defensive spark Kreitz spoke of worked just as well for Wilmington on the offensive end, particularly for Kreitz and classmate Trey Shaw. Shaw went off for a game-high 24 points and Kreitz notched a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double in the Wildcats’ 64-54 victory over the Comets.
Early on it appeared as if the Wildcats were about to be run off their own floor, as the Comets scored the game’s first nine points and forced a Wilmington timeout just minutes into the game.
But the Wildcats marched right back out of the timeout, going on a 14-0 run of their own between the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters to gain a lead they held into the half.
“When you get a team down like that you need to continue to try and push the spread,” Comets coach Mark Porter said. “We didn’t have a sense of urgency and we didn’t attack them.”
The Wildcats found plenty of offense in the second quarter, exploding for 22 points. The primary source of that offense was sophomore guard Tysen Meents, who buried three 3-pointers as part of his 10-point effort in the first half.
Meents’ deep-range threat drew the Comets’ defense out past the arc as well, which gave room for Kreitz to set up shop near the top of the key and high post, where he also reached the 10-point mark by halftime.
“They mesh together fantastic and it’s a dream as a coach that I’ll get them back next year,” Wildcats coach Bill Karavites said of the sophomore Meents and junior Kreitz. “Tysen Meents has been fantastic as a sophomore and developed really well ... and Ben is just as good a player in the area as we have.”
Ben Kreitz with the tough finish at the bucket and draws the foul. pic.twitter.com/Nhu8xbZdKi— Mason Schweizer (@MSchweizerTDJS) February 15, 2020
The Lead the Wildcats took early in the second lasted throughout a topsy-turvy third quarter that saw their lead grow to double-digits before sitting at just one point when the third quarter horn sounded with the Wildcats ahead 43-42.
Stamm drills this 3 just before the buzzer and it’s just a 43-42 Wilmington lead heading to the fourth. pic.twitter.com/ltiazxO6v2— Mason Schweizer (@MSchweizerTDJS) February 15, 2020
The Comets’ offense came from Jacob McPherson (13 second-half points) and Gage Stamm (11 second-half points), but it was the defensive end where Porter thought his Comets showed improvement as they cut into the Wildcats’ lead.
“I thought McPherson and (Lucas) Foote did a really nice job on the front of our zone,” Porter said. “I think their length really bothered them a bit and cause some turnovers.”
Stamm drove for a layup to put the Comets ahead 52-51 at about the midway point of the fourth to give them their first lead since 7-6, but they only scored one more basket over the final half of the quarter while the Wildcats, mainly Shaw and Kreitz, put on a free-throw exhibition on the other end.
Shaw scored 10 points from the free-throw line in the final frame to help him reach the game’s high point total. Karavites had praise for Shaw’s offense and defense, where he corralled seven rebounds and swiped five steals, but nothing about Shaw’s stats could compare in Karavites’ eyes to the things Shaw provides outside of the stat book.
“Trey is the best leader I’ve had in 26 years of coaching,” Karavites said. “He’s a fantastic kid, he always responds to what a coach needs and he’s a fantastic leader.”
The win improved the Wildcats to 10-16 and 3-9 in the conference and the Comets dropped to 9-19 (3-10). It gave the teams a season split, as each team won on their home floor, but a rubber match will come on Monday, Feb. 24, when the teams meet in the first round of the IHSA Class 2A Coal City Regional.
“We got them by four at our place and you saw what happened here tonight,” Porter said. “It’ll be a nice matchup.”
Shaw’s 24 points and five steals were both game-highs. Kreitz added three blocks to his 19 points and 11 boards. Meents finished with 16 points, four rebounds and a pair of steals.
Stamm led the Comets with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal. McPherson had 16 points, three boards, an assist and two steals. Blake Foster had seven points, nine rebounds and two steals.
The Wildcats are back in action today at Momence at 12 p.m. The Comets will visit Central Monday at 7:30 p.m.