Boys Basketball: Defense is name of the game for Benet
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media March 5, 2013 12:40PM
Benet's Sean O'Mara slams home a dunk against Plainfield North during the Redwings' regional win last Wednesday. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Following is the Bolingbrook Sectional schedule, revised due to Tuesday’s winter storm:
Wednesday — Oswego vs. West Aurora, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday — Benet vs. Neuqua Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Friday — Sectional finals, 7:30 p.m.
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:14AM
That’s the number of points Benet combined to score in the first quarter of both of its victories last week over Plainfield North and Naperville Central en route to winning its own regional.
But while getting off to fast starts is all well and good, one might want to keep another number in mind for finding reasons second-seeded Benet will be making its third trip to a sectional in the last four years this week at Bolingbrook —13.
Limiting Plainfield North and Naperville Central to a combined 13 first-quarter points, the Redwings’ defense was in high gear for the entire week — not that all surprising to anyone familiar with what Redwings’ coach Gene Heidkamp has preached since arriving before the 2008-09 season.
“I thought we played really well on both ends. We got off to a good start — both regional games, we got off to good starts and I think it carried over,” Heidkamp said after his team’s win over Naperville Central. “Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence. We’ve been playing very hard on the defensive end. Like I tell you guys all the time, that’s really like the backbone of our team, and I thought that that was really (the key).”
Getting its postseason run off to a good start last Wednesday with a 63-39 victory over 15th-seeded Plainfield North, the Redwings jumped out to a 29-10 lead early in the second quarter on their way to holding the Tigers under the 40-point mark for the second time in as many meetings this season.
Two nights later, Benet pushed it to a higher gear on the defensive end.
Winning the Class 4A Benet Regional with a 62-36 victory over seventh-seeded Naperville Central last Friday, Benet held the Redhawks to its two lowest scoring outputs of the season — 35 points in a 46-35 Benet win at the Sears Centre on Jan. 26 and the 36 points it managed last Friday.
The Redwings’ defense so was stifling early that it allowed the Redhawks just three field goals in an 11-point first half, which included a stretch that saw Naperville Central go without a field goal for just over a quarter’s time.
“It was really our defense. Our defense get us out to a good start,” said Redwings’ senior forward Pat McInerney, who had 18 of his game-high 19 points in the first half as the Redwings went into halftime up 36-11. “We get a couple layups and everyone starts feeling it and we feed off each other’s energy. I think that’s when we’re at our best.”
Winning its third East Suburban Catholic Conference title in the last four years, Benet (26-5) has been at its best a lot this season while going up against strong opponents such as York, Curie, St. Ignatius, Proviso East, Homewood-Flossmoor, Bogan, Notre Dame, Marian Catholic, West Aurora, St. Viator and Whitney Young.
On Thursday night, third-seeded Neuqua Valley just represents the next test in a long line of tough opponents.
Calling Neuqua Valley’s Jabari Sandifer one of the best guards in the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional and mindful of the frenzied and up-tempo pace at which Neuqua Valley likes to operate, Heidkamp knows the Redwings will have their work cut out for them.
“As far as the matchup goes, I think that they’re an excellent team,” he said. “Sandifer’s a great player and they’ve got a lot more than just Sandifer. They’ve got a great inside game. Their wing players are very, very good. So I think they’ve got a complete team. There’s no question about that.
“They run their stuff very, very well. So they’re very, very good on both ends of the floor. It will be certainly be a challenge to come out and play them. There’s no doubt about that.”
Heidkamp was quick to mention Pat Kenny, Darien Miskel, Brad Mikulecky, Trevor Davis, Connor Raridon and Elijah Robertson among the wealth of talent Wildcats’ coach Todd Sutton can utilize alongside the Western Illinois-bound Sandifer.
“It’s gonna be a huge challenge because they run so many good sets and they’re a talented team,” he said. “So to try to defend them isn’t easy because they just have a lot of weapons and they do a great job of putting those guys in position to succeed.”
Doing what many people expected it to do by claiming the title in its own regional, Benet’s focus now is squarely on moving on to the next step.
That next step includes trying to pick up a pair of victories this week at Bolingbrook and take home the program’s second sectional title in the last four years.
“All the momentum we have has been these last two games,” Redwings’ junior center Sean O’Mara said last Friday.
“The regular season is over. It’s the second season right now. Everything we build is just keep building on itself. It’s lose or go home. We have a possibility of seven games, I think, and we’re hoping to do all seven of them.”