Solon, IA- Coach Kent Bennett always talks about how the substate game is the toughest matchup on a team’s journey to Des Moines and this Class 1A Substate 4 championship bout against New London and Marquette Catholic proved to be just that. The Tigers entered the game with an 18-6 record having been on the road for their last two playoff games, the championship game would make three in a row. On the other sideline, Marquette Catholic entered the game with a 23-3 record and had defeated their three playoff opponents by an average of 26 points per game. New London has embraced the underdog role,
“Our mentality has been no one gives us a shot anyway, so we’re playing with house money that’s what I tell them we’re playing with house money so you go all out and we lose everyone expected you to. If we win, then everybody’s getting a bit quiet. Our mentality is house money.”
The Tigers were playing with house money all night as they started the night fast and furious, but so did Marquette as both teams exchanged quick buckets and transition points to start the game off. Kade Benjamin ran the show for New London in the first quarter as he scored 10 of their 14 first quarter points. Evan Scott for Marquette would keep his team ahead at the end of the first quarter with a slim 16-14 lead.
The second quarter was an offensive show case as Benjamin and Scott continued their excellence as Benjamin finished with 15 points and Scott cashed in 13 points. Marquette had one of the largest leads of the game at 5 points in the middle of the quarter and that’s when Rylan Martin hit the two biggest shots of the first half by nailing back-to-back three pointers to get New London back into the game. However, Blaise Porter would foul Eli Scott of Marquette with no time left on the clock to give Scott three free throws with no time on the clock. Scott would make two out of the three free throws and give Marquette the 36-33 lead at the break.
Blaise Porter had a quiet first half, but he got things going in the second half and with a quick run the Tigers had a 5 point lead midway through the third quarter. Evan Scott and Caiden Kettmann managed to mitigate the run and tie the game at the end of three quarters at 53 apiece.
The fourth quarter was a defensive struggle as neither team could pull away or make a shot. It all culminated into a tie at 62 and with thirty seconds remaining each team would get their shot. Firstly, Porter would call for the isolation play and with ten seconds remaining he made his move towards the basket and faced a bit of contact, but with no foul call, the ball bouncing off the side of the rim, and Marquette collecting the rebound and calling a timeout with 7.8 seconds on the clock, they would get one more shot to win it. Marquette quickly moved down the court and gave the ball to the hot hand, Evan Scott, would drove down the lane and put up the runner with no avail; nevertheless, he ball would bounce back right to his hands where he would put up another shot as the buzzer rang out. The ball danced along the rim and ultimately fell out. The game was heading to overtime. After the game when asked about that play coach Porter had a simple answer,
“It worked out great for me and that’s all I got to say.”
Porter and Benjamin would keep up the work with Benjamin controlling the paint and Porter getting to the line and knocking down his free throws. The Tigers had a 70-67 lead with 10 seconds remaining in the game when Isaac Brinker made a lay-up to close the gap to 70-69. New London would inbounds the ball to Brenden Richey, which appeared to had won the Tigers the game. However, the referees determined he had been fouled with three-tenths of a second left in the game and with New London in the bonus Marquette was not out of the game. Richey would miss the free throw and with one last full court heave at the buzzer and gasp of breath the Tigers could now finally celebrate the one-point overtime victory. New London was heading back to the state tournament for the first time since 2017 and the second time in school history thanks to Benjamin’s 27 points and Porter’s 27 points.
“I’m just proud of those guys,” said Bryant Porter. “This year they said we are getting there no matter what and they held firm.”
New London grabbed the 8th seed for the tournament pitting them against the #1 seed Grand View Christian, who’s looking to avenge their loss to North Linn in last year’s state championship game, on March 6th at 10:30 am. KILJ will be covering New London’s journey through the tournament.