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Aria Mazza and Benet stunned Bolingbrook


Benet’s Aria Mazza was feeling a sense of deja vu Tuesday night.

The Redwings gave Bolingbrook a one-point lead when the junior guard was fouled and went to the free throw line with 8.8 seconds left.

“I started smiling,” Mazza said. “I said, ‘This is the same thing as Neuqua.’ I took another deep breath and got excited to take them down. “My team did a great job to get to this point in the game and I scored my two goals.”

As fourth-seeded Benet defeated Bolingbrook 55-52 in the Class 4A Oswego Regional semifinals, Mazza’s free throws capped the scoring.

This was the second game in a row that Mazza survived such a scenario. Five days ago, he again completed the scoring by making two free throws with 8.8 seconds left. Redwings beat Neuqua Valley 47-44 in the regional final.

Oddly enough, Mazza wasn’t shooting very well from the line before the playoffs.

“I told him, ‘It’s weird that you’re a great shooter and you can’t shoot better from the free throw line,'” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. “He was shooting well everywhere except the free throw line.

“’I think he said that because I wasn’t in a hurry,’ he said. “I said, ‘Well, take your time.’”

Benet players celebrate their 55-52 victory over Bolingbrook in the Class 4A Oswego Regional semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Mark Black/Naperville Sun)

Mazza transferred from Conant, is having a great time with Benet in his first postseason and it reflects in his play. He scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-point pass from the senior guard. Emilia Sularski This gave the Redwings (24-6) a 48-46 lead.

Benet is not left behind again, as it will play second-seeded Waubonsie Valley (30-3) in the district championship game on Thursday at 6 p.m.

“He was great for us,” sophomore guard Bridget Rifenburg He said about Mazza. “I think it was a big motivation for him to transfer and never get a regional plaque.

“At the beginning of the game, he was saying to me, ‘I’ve never been in an environment like this.’ ‘I love this so much.’ “He really thrives in these environments, and that’s very important to us because we really need him.”

Mazza, who came off the bench alongside the veteran forward. Shannon Earley and freshman guard Ava Mersingeris happy to contribute, including post-match celebrations that can be heard down the hall.

“This is amazing,” Mazza said. “We were having a lot of fun in the locker room. It’s fun to be in that environment. I’ve never played in a regional game and it was very noisy, but I still loved it.”

The Redwings, who advanced to their ninth consecutive regional final, played an unlikely underdog role against Bolingbrook. But second class center Emma BriggsPlaying with 14 points and 7 rebounds, the player put the team ahead 24-17 with his 3-pointer.

Benet's Emma Briggs (20) shoots against Bolingbrook during the Oswego 4A Regional semifinal basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.  (Mark Black/Naperville Sun)
Benet’s Emma Briggs (20) shoots during a game against Bolingbrook in the Class 4A Oswego Regional semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Mark Black/Naperville Sun)

The Raiders (26-4) rallied to take a 27-24 halftime lead off the sophomore guard. Trinity JonesThe Power Five prospect transferred from Naperville Central scored 11 straight points, including three 3-pointers.

Jones finished the game with 25 points, 6 steals and 6 rebounds, but his teammates remained in control.

“I thought we got a little tired in the second quarter and our rotations slowed down a little bit,” Kilbride said. “Give him credit – these are beautiful shots – but he was wide open.

“I thought we played with a little more energy in the second half and our defense was outstanding.”

With Kilbride replaced frequently, the Redwings attacked the basket aggressively, playing tirelessly on both ends of the floor.

Benet fell behind 44-38 when Earley scored on a layup. This started a 14-2 run in which Rifenburg hit a 3-pointer and Briggs and Mersinger scored.

Benet's Aria Mazza (3) shoots around Bolingbrook's Jasmine Jones (40) during an Oswego 4A Regional semifinal basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.  (Mark Black/Naperville Sun)
Benet’s Aria Mazza (3) puts the ball into the basket around Bolingbrook’s Jasmine Jones during a Class 4A Oswego Regional semifinal game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Mark Black/Naperville Sun)

Mazza made two free throws to give Benet a 52-46 lead with 1:47 left. Briggs then made a crucial offensive call to Jones, who then cut the score to 53-52.

The Raiders had a chance to take the lead, but Briggs stole the ball from Jones, setting up Mazza’s final free throws. Bolingbrook senior guard Yahaira Bueno missed a last-second 3-pointer.

“(Bolingbrook) is ranked No. 1 in the state and deserves it,” Kilbride said. “I told the girls we have nothing to lose. Everyone in the state thinks Bolingbrook is going to beat us by 20 points, so here we go.”

Mazza had an idea of ​​how things would go.

“We came here as underdogs and wanted to prove everyone wrong because we know what we can do,” he said. “We knew we could do it, no matter what everyone said.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter.


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