The Sacred Heart boys’ basketball team has worn out the road leading from Salina to Manhattan over the past few years.
They will take that very road back to their third-straight 2A State Tournament appearance as the defending champs outlasted Bennington 54-37 in the sub-state championship game on Saturday night.
Sacred Heart came in as the top-seed and on a 13-game winning streak. However, Bennington had a solid year of their own as the Bulldogs came in at 17-4 and were the last team to beat Sacred Heart in the sub-state tournament in 2015–when Sacred Heart’s seniors were freshmen.
Unlike in previous meetings between the Knights and Bulldogs, Saturday night’s affair was a defensive struggle. Both teams struggled to put the ball in the hole all night, making execution down the stretch vital.
Sacred Heart led the entire first quarter, however, the Knights’ top scorer, Caleb Jordan, picked up his second foul at the 1:20 mark in the first quarter, allowing Bennington to go on run.
The Bulldogs would convert on a Kyle Shipley 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull within two of Sacred Heart after one, 11-9.
The second quarter was a thrilling period. With no C. Jordan, Sacred Heart struggled offensively as the Bulldogs would take two 2-point leads in the frame. The Knights were also without senior, Grant Herrenbruck, who also picked up two fouls. Sacred Heart had to turn to a familiar last name, however, this one coming from off of the bench in Josh Jordan.
J. Jordan scored seven points in the second quarter, including a running floater with under five-seconds in the half to put Sacred Heart up at halftime, 24-23.
With C. Jordan and G. Herrenbruck back in the lineup in the second half, Sacred Heart would slowly begin to take control of the game. This time, it was their defense locking down Bennington.
Shots weren’t dropping for the Bulldogs and their 6’10 forward, Josh Juenemann struggled to connect on shots inside of the lane.
After having to sit on the bench in foul trouble in the first half, C. Jordan was then ready to heat up as he would connect on three of his five 3-pointers in the second half as the Knights held a 39-30 lead going in to the final quarter.
Sacred Heart executed down the stretch led by the Jordan brothers as Bennington struggled to keep them from getting to the lane, causing Sacred Heart to go to the foul line all fourth quarter.
The lead eventually ballooned to double-digits as Bennington had no answers for the Knights’ rock solid defense. The Bulldogs were held to just 14 second half points.
Sacred Heart clinched the 2A sub-state championship by converting on FTs from Caleb & Josh Jordan, as well as Charlie Skidmore.
Bennington (17-5) saw their season end at the hands of Sacred Heart for the second consecutive season. Bennington was led by Devin Feil with 11 points.
Sacred Heart (20-3) won their ninth-straight sub-state game, captured their 14th win in-a-row and held their semifinal and sub-state final opponents to a combined 24 second half points on back-to-back nights.
Sacred Heart was led C. Jordan with 17 points. His brother, Josh, was the game’s Salina Ortho “Player of the Game” coming off of the bench with 15 points.
The sub-state win also gives Sacred Heart coach, Pat Martin, his eighth state tournament berth in 11 years as coach.
The Knights are headed back to Manhattan for the 2A State Tournament next week, as they will play on Thursday, March 8. Their opponent is unknown at time of publication.
Rocking M Media station, FM 104.9 will have live coverage of Sacred Heart state tournament basketball from Bramlage Coliseum as far as the Knights go in the tournament.
Stay tuned with KSAL.com as we will post the state tournament brackets as they come available.