JOLIET | Seton Academy collectively let out a sigh of relief as Tevin King’s game-winning shot was stuffed by a host of defenders with nearly no time left on the clock.
When Sting senior Kamal Shasi grabbed the rebound and launched the basketball into the air in triumph, the sighs quickly turned into cheers.
Providence St. Mel gave Seton Academy all it could handle Friday in the Class 2A Joliet Central Super Sectional, but the Sting managed to hold on 46-45 to advance to the state semifinals in Peoria for the second-straight season.
“We got this one, at least we got this one,” said Seton Academy coach Brandon Thomas. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and it wasn’t pretty, but we did what we came to do.”
It certainly wasn’t an ideal victory for Seton Academy (22-10), who shot a dismal 16-of-45 from the floor (35-percent) and also committed 22 turnovers. Star guards Mark Weems Jr. (6-of-17) and Kamal Shasi (1-6) also had off nights, although Weems managed to make up for his shooting woes with free throws (6-of-7).
The Sting led 40-29 after Weems hit two free throws with 7 minutes, 52 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but Providence St. Mel had no interest in going away.
Joshuan McNeal quickly responded with a 3-pointer for the Knights, and Teadric Anderson added a put back jumper moments later as St. Mel reeled off a 13-3 run to pull within 43-42.
Donald Morgan ended the run with a jumper with 2:55 to play.
Weems knocked down a clutch running jumper as he was fouled on the next Seton Academy possession, and converted the 3-point play to put his team ahead 46-42.
King made one free throw, and Morgan added two more with 1:39 remaining to bring the Knights to within 46-45.
Weems missed a free throw that could have put the Sting ahead by two with 15.6 seconds to go, but an aggressive defense in the paint saved the day for Seton Academy on the final play.
“I felt upset [about missing that free throw], but I knew that I just needed to get back down the court with my team to prepare to win this game,” said Weems, who finished with a game high 18 points. “It’s all about redemption now.”
Seton Academy fell to Breese Central in last year’s Class 2A state semi-final round, and is hoping to re-write history with its return trip to state this weekend.
“Heading into this game, I didn’t even show my team film of Providence St. Mel, because we know that team, we’ve played them,” Thomas added. “Instead, on Sunday I showed them film from last season’s semi-final loss against Breese Central. I told them ‘look at this game, envision yourselves back in this game. Watch yourselves not getting the job done last year and fix it.”
Providence St. Mel led 10-7 after the first period, and 23-22 at halftime.
Weems went 0-5 in the first quarter, but Seton Academy kept its pace behind senior Alex Foster. The 6-foot, 8-inch forward scored all of the Sting’s seven points in the frame, and finished with 11 on the night to go with eight rebounds.
The transfer from De la Salle said that being apart of this state-bound team is an unreal experience.
“Just getting an opportunity to do my part for these guys, it’s special,” Foster said. “But the journey isn’t over yet. We still have work to do. It’s about state now.”