Boys Basketball: Benet toughs it out in ‘unbelievable game’
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media March 7, 2013 10:50PM
Neuqua Valley's Jabari Sandifer (left) is comforted by teammate Jason Lonn after their 62-68 double overtime loss to Benet. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 3:24PM
After easily beating its first two postseason rivals, Benet’s reasoning for playing the tough schedule that it does came through Thursday night.
Fighting Neuqua Valley tooth-and-nail for 40 minutes, second-seeded Benet survived by pulling out a 68-62 victory in double-overtime over third-seeded Neuqua Valley in the second semifinal of the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional.
“It was an unbelievable game and I give an absolute ton of credit to Neuqua,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “Every time it seemed like we had a lead that we might be able to push out, they would just answer the call. Just unbelievable character from their kids.”
Leading by as many as 14 points and for much of regulation, the Redwings responded to the counter-punch that it didn’t see last week, led by the usual suspects in senior forward Pat McInerney and junior center Sean O’Mara.
But while McInerney and O’Mara were doing their thing in each posting double-doubles, the biggest reason the Redwings are still playing resided on the bench.
Senior Rob Haemmerle came off the bench to chip in with 15 points, including hitting all four of his free throws during the two extra sessions.
“The game was not gonna be lost because of me. I wanted to just give forth my best effort,” Haemmerle said. “We’ve worked hard all year. We didn’t want the season to end and I just did what I could to chip in and help a little bit here and there.”
Advancing to Friday night’s title game opposite fourth-seeded West Aurora after snapping Neuqua Valley’s 10-game winning streak, Benet (27-5) will be looking to win its second sectional title in the last four years.
Meeting the Blackhawks for the second time in a little over a month, the Redwings will look for an encore to their 62-50 win over the Blackhawks on Feb. 2, which saw them build a 19-point halftime lead.
“I’m excited. (West Aurora junior guard) Jontrell (Walker) is a (AAU) teammate of mine,” said O’Mara. “I didn’t play too well against him last time, so I’m hoping that I can step it up this time and help get us another W.”
O’Mara poured in a game-high 26 points to share game-high honors with the Wildcats’ Western Illinois-bound guard Jabari Sandifer.
Sandifer had 20 of his 26 points after halftime and did his best to keep the Wildcats in the game and take a lead as large as three points.
Fouling out with 1:15 left in the first overtime with the game tied at 54-54, all Sandifer could do was watch as Benet outscored Neuqua Valley, 14-8, from that point on.
“We knew that he was a great player, but I mean, he was five times better than I thought he was,” McInerney said of Sandifer. “He hit shots that you’re not supposed to hit.”