The night wasn’t going all that well for Andrew Kirkpatrick.
The New Trier junior point guard made the shot that mattered most on March 1, when he sank a clutch step-back 14-footer in the lane with two seconds on the clock. It gave the Trevians a thrilling 50-48 victory over the host Zee-Bees in the semifinals of the Class 4A Zion-Benton Regional.
It was Kirkpatrick’s only basket in the game.
But, who’s counting?
“In that situation, we go to Kirk and let him make a play,” said NT head coach Scott Fricke. “He either shoots it or passes it to an open man.”
Despite going 0-for-4 from the field in the first 31 minutes and 58 seconds of the game, Kirkpatrick, who had six assists in the game, wasn’t about to dodge a big moment.
After receiving an inbounds pass and taking the ball all the way upcourt, the 6-foot-2 Kirkpatrick, who wears jersey No. 1, had every intention of putting up a shot. He wasn’t about to yield in that situation.
“I had the exact same shot against Loyola Academy [in the Thanksgiving Tournament],” said a stoic Kirkpatrick after the game. “I didn’t make that one.”
This time, he was right on the money.
“He [Kirkpatrick] has tremendous one-on-one ability,” said NT senior guard Aaron Peltz, who scored a team-high 15 points on five three-pointers.
Kirkpatrick’s game-winner capped a frantic finish. Ten seconds earlier, the Zee-Bees (20-10), one of the top teams in the North Suburban Conference, tied the game 48-48 on an off-balanced, falling-to-the-ground driving layup by Rod Henry-Hayes.
By upsetting No. 5 Zion-Benton, New Trier (15-13) gets a rematch against fourth-seeded Loyola (21-8) on March 3 at 7 p.m. On Nov. 23, in the LA gym, the Trevians pulled out a 56-54 victory.
At the moment, both North Shore teams are clicking, which has been a long time coming for New Trier.
“Our record doesn’t look so good,” said Peltz. “But Coach had us play a really tough schedule. It’s prepared us well for this.”
No lead was safe on Wednesday night.
The Trevians held the upper hand early on. They led 12-8 after one quarter and then jumped ahead by 10 points, 27-17, on a three-pointer by James Connors (8 points) with 1:34 left in the first half.
But the Zee-Bees, who like the uptempo game, didn’t back off. They scored the final six points of the first half to cut NT’s advantage to four points, 27-23. They took their first lead of the game, 39-38, with 6:15 left in regulation.
A few minutes later, Zion-Benton looked to be in charge, taking a six-point lead, 46-40, with 2:40 remaining.
But, the home team was unable to close the deal on New Trier. Thanks to a layup by Ciaran Brayboy, a banked-in three-pointer by Peltz, two free throws by Griffin Ryan and a free throw by Dylan Horvitz, the Trevians took a two-point lead, 48-46, with 27 seconds left.
“I really think that going to the 1-3-1 [half-court trap] in the fourth quarter was key,” said Fricke.
Zion-Benton, which had committed only nine miscues in the first three periods, turned the ball over five times in the fourth quarter, including twice in the final 42 seconds.
“The 1-3-1 is such a great change of pace.” said Peltz. “It’s our secret weapon.
“We’ve got guys who really know how to run it,” he added. “It causes a lot of confusion.”
New Trier Game Balls: Aaron Peltz, Griffin Ryan, Andrew Kirkpatrick
Zion-Benton Game Balls: Travis Hall, Rod Henry-Hayes
Player of the Game: Peltz
Unsung Heroes: James Connors. Teddy McGregor
NT Stat Leaders: Peltz (15 points, 5 threes), Ryan (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block), Connors (8 points), McGregor (4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block), Kirkpatrick (2 points, 6 assists), Ciaran Brayboy (6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block), Dylan Horvitz (5 points, 7 rebounds)
Z-B Stat Leaders: Hall (16 points), Henry-Hayes (7 points), Damarquis Henry (10 points), Cortez Sawyer (8 points)
Notable: Andrew Kirkpatrick tossed in 21 points in New Trier’s 47-35 victory over Lakes High School in a regional quarterfinal at Zion-Benton on Feb. 27. … Due to illness, the Trevians have played both of their regional games without 6-foot-8 sophomore Spencer Boehm. … Aaron Peltz not only is a marksman from long range, but he also has been amazing at the foul line this season. Prior to a miss against Lakes, the senior had made 33 straight foul shots. “It was time to miss one,” said Peltz, with a smile. “It’s all about being confident and sticking with a routine.”