Boys Basketball: Benet-Naperville Central rematch Saturday
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media January 22, 2013 5:42PM
Benet's Sean O'Mara shoots over Naperville Central's Nick Czarnowkski during the Hoops for Healing Tournament final Nov. 23. The two centers meet again Saturday night in a Sears Centre matchup between the two teams. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times M
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:16AM
In compiling matchups for both the National Guard High School Hoops Showdown and the City-Suburban Showdown, Bob Rylko, co-founder of The Integrity Group, has taken pride in the quality of contests he’s arranged.
Matchups are part of a process that takes more than a year to complete, Rylko indicated, and he continually measures several factors when trying to create games that provide natural storylines. He has also put together two annual events that have offered no rematches.
When the idea of trying to pit Naperville Central and Benet against one another as part of this year’s event first came about, Rylko considered several appealing factors — the proximity of the two schools, the fact the two programs hadn’t met since February 2006 and the fact the offenses of both teams navigate around a 6-foot-9 junior patrolling the paint.
What Rylko didn’t necessarily count on was Naperville Central and Benet meeting in the title game of the Hoops for Healing Tournament in November.
So, for the first time, Rylko and the rest of the organizers at The Integrity Group will have to deal with a rematch as Naperville Central and Benet will meet in the second game of the 16th Annual National Guard High School Hoops Showdown on Saturday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. Tipoff is 6:30 p.m.
“I’m glad, in a way, we played them just because now we know what they’re about. We know what they have,” Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said back in November. “I think (Benet senior forward Pat) McInerney’s a nice player, but I didn’t realize he was the player he is. So I think it was kind of nice to have played them. You see what (Benet junior center Sean) O’Mara does, what he’s made of.
Naperville Central’s 57-54 overtime win on Nov. 23 over Benet was one of the highlights of the early season. The Redhawks erased seven-point deficits at both halftime and entering the fourth quarter and a quick five-point overtime deficit to emerge with a key early-season win after senior guard Nick Lopez nailed a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
At 12-6 overall entering its home game against DuPage Valley Conference-leading Glenbard East on Friday leading into the rematch with Benet one day later, Naperville Central has been alternating wins and losses since rattling off seven wins in an eight-game stretch from Dec. 8 through Jan. 5.
It’s finding more consistency that holds the keys to any potential postseason run, given their considerable talent level — led by junior Nick Czarnowski.
“We play real well sometimes and other times, we don’t play so well,” Kramer said after watching his team lose at home to Plainfield East, 58-56, last week.
The battle inside between Czarnowski and O’Mara took center stage going into the two teams’ meeting in November and figures to do so again.
“He’s a good friend of mine. A very good friend of mine, so you know it’s always fun going against him,” Czarnowski said of Benet’s O’Mara. “We love going against each other. We push each other. We make each other better.”
Czarnowski managed just seven points while going head-to-head with O’Mara, who scored 14 points, as the two big men were upstaged somewhat by a pair of seniors in Redhawks’ guard Mike Blaszczyk and McInerney, who tallied 22 points apiece.
“It’s always fun to play a neighborhood rival like that. … We know some guys on their team and they know us. It was fun to play them, especially for a championship this early in the season,” McInerney said a week after losing to the Redhawks. “That January game is gonna be even more fun now.”
Rising up to sixth in the Sun-Times’ rankings after its 51-50 win over Marian Catholic last Thursday, Benet (18-3) will have had nine days off to prepare for Saturday. The Redwings continues to test themselves against high-quality competition, with games against No. 15 West Aurora and No. 1 Whitney Young still left on the schedule.
Winners of six straight games and 15 of their last 16 games, the Redwings figure to be prominently seeded within the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional on Feb. 7 and will be battle-tested entering the state tournament because of what has quickly become a staple under fifth-year coach Gene Heidkamp — a tough schedule.
“Oh, it’s always good to play good teams. You find out, especially early in the year, you find out a lot about yourself,” Heidkamp said. “So, I mean, from that standpoint, it was good to play. (The Redhawks) are a very good team and it was a great game. … I think the game speaks for itself. They obviously have a very good team and I think it should be even a better game when we play them the second time.”