Sunday, February 04, 2001

Elder knocks off Ohio's No. 1 - again

Panthers stun Cleveland St. Ignatius at Pit

By Carey Hoffman
Enquirer contributor

Elder's Jake Bazeley
(Brandi Stafford photos)
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        The famed Elder Pit has seen many upsets, but none quite like what happened Saturday night. For the first time in school history, the Panthers upset the state's No. 1-ranked team on their home court.

        All five Elder starters hit double figures, led by Scott Benken and guard Mike Mahon with 18 points each, as Elder beat Cleveland St. Ignatius 82-67.

        St. Ignatius (14-1) came into the game ranked No. 1 in the Ohio Associated Press poll. Elder is now 12-4 and can lay claim to having upset Ohio's top-ranked team twice in one season — the Panthers beat then-No. 1 St. Xavier on the road Jan. 12.

        “I feel pretty good right now,” Benken said. “Kind of sitting up on a cloud.”

        St. I hit 16 of 28 shots in the first half, and star guard Rahsaan Benton had 16 points. But the news wasn't all bad for Elder, which trailed only 38-37.

>        “We were encouraged,” Elder coach Joe Schoenfeld said. “We were just learning about them. It was kind of on-the-job training.”

        Both teams had played rivalry games Friday night, meaning preparations were at a minimum for Saturday. Elder's staff took the emphasis off facing the No. 1 team and asked the players just to try to have fun.

Scott Benken
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        Still, Elder had some scores to settle. The Panthers had lost last year at St. Ignatius 64-62, and in 1998, the St. I football team came into the football side of the Pit ranked No. 1 in the state and won 21-20 in overtime to end Elder's playoff chances.

        Elder took control right after halftime.

        Mahon, who was scoreless in the first half, used a screen to get free under the basket, then shot out to the top of the key where he hit a 3-pointer to put Elder ahead for the first time since the game's opening moments, 40-37.

        The play was called in the locker room. “Coach told me to keep my head up,” said Mahon, who went on to make four more 3-pointers in the second half. “I think my teammates had a lot more confidence after that.”

        Phil Bengel added a layup shortly thereafter to give Elder a 42-38 lead. St.I came back to take the lead one more time at 45-44 on a 3-pointer by Kris Kolwicz, but Elder was back in front 52-51 at the end of the third quarter.

        The Panthers' lead was 55-53 when Benken scored a conventional three-point play to charge up the Elder crowd with 6:31 to go.

Tim Schenke
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        “They were denying the ball up top, and I just made a backdoor cut,” Benken said. “(Jake) Bazeley made a perfect pass, and I knew it had a chance. When it went in, the place went nuts.”

        “I knew that was going to be huge,” St. Ignatius coach Brian Becker said. “A kid like (Benken), I kind of call him a plumber, because he is down there willing to do the dirty work all game. I think he was a nice surprise for them tonight.”

        Benken later stepped into a passing lane and deflected the ball to Mahon. Elder came storming down the court and Mahon hit a 3-pointer from the corner, boosting the Panthers' lead to 61-53.

        “Give credit to Mahon,” Becker said. “He hit 5-of-7 on the 3-ball and that's going to keep any team in the game. Elder played very hard defensively and let's not kid ourselves — they shot lights out.”

        Elder made 27 of 46 shots in the game; St.I made 28 of 58.

        “They had a tough game last night against one of their rivals (Lakewood St. Edward),” Schoenfeld said of St. I's inability to respond down the stretch. “We kind of thought if we kept attacking all game that could happen down the stretch.”

        Elder outrebounded St. I's larger frontline 25-18, with Tim Schenke grabbing 10 rebounds to go with his 12 points. Center Phil Bengel had 14 points -- 10 in the second half -- while point guard Bazeley had an all-around outstanding night with 10 points, 11 assists and a solid defensive job in shadowing St. I's Benton.

        Elder is ranked No. 5 in the Enquirer's Division I coaches poll and has now won five of its last six games. The Panthers earned the No. 6 seed earlier in the day in the Division I sectional tournament draw.

        They now have another piece of evidence that they may actually be capable of doing more than their seed would suggest.

        “We know now that we can do it,” Benken said. “We know we should be one of the teams that should be up there. We have a great chance to use this as a compelling force for the rest of the season.”

        ST. IGNATIUS (67) — Gannon 3 1 7, McGlynn 1 0 3, Koch 2 3 8, Benton 10 0 21, Salopek 2 0 6, Kolwicz 4 0 10, Moviel 3 0 6, Massey 3 0 6. Totals: 28 4 67.

        ELDER (82) — Miller 2 0 5, Bazeley 2 6 10, Benken 4 8 24, Schenke 4 4 12, Volpe 0 1 1, Mahon 5 3 18, Wiehe 1 0 2, Kroeger 1 0 2, Bengel 7 0 14. Totals: 26 22 82.

        St. Ignatius ....... 21 17 13 16—67

        Elder ....... 17 20 15 30 82

        3-point goals: SI - McGlynn, Koch, Benton, Salopek 2, Kolwicz 2; E - Miller, Mahon 5. Records: SI 14-1, E 12-4.

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