Boys basketball: Benet’s offense struggles in sectional loss
By Blake Baumgartner For Sun-Times Media March 8, 2013 10:56PM
Pat McInerney (left) of Benet and Matt Dunn (2) of West Aurora battle for the ball in midair. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 11:26PM
Admittedly still trying to process what his team had just played through, Benet coach Gene Heidkamp stood outside his team’s locker room late Thursday night and delivered a matter-of-fact statement.
His team knew the deal.
Losing its day off after having its meeting with Neuqua Valley pushed back a day because of Tuesday’s snowstorm, Heidkamp and his charges were ready to make no excuses that their crack at a sectional title would come less than 24 hours after their 68-62, double-overtime marathon with Neuqua Valley began.
Returning to Bolingbrook on Friday night to battle with fourth-seeded West Aurora in the title game of the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional, second-seeded Benet knew its defense would likely give it a chance to win.
Failing to find much consistency throughout but managing to enter the fourth quarter with a two-point lead — and despite holding West Aurora without a field goal in the fourth — Benet eventually fell 42-38 in a game that featured 55 free throws.
“I thought it was really a hard-fought game. Our kids gave everything that they had,” Heidkamp said. “But we struggled to score. (West Aurora) played excellent defense as well.
“Both teams just played great defense. It was really hard-fought. I think it was a struggle to score for both teams down the stretch.”
That’s an understatement considering the Redwings accounted for the only two field goals in the quarter, a Sean O’Mara basket with 1:55 left and a Eddie Eshoo three-pointer with about 20 seconds left.
Shooting 36 of those 55 free throws, the Blackhawks were able to advance to a second straight meeting with reigning Class 4A runner-up Proviso East in the Hinsdale Central Supersectional by hitting enough of them in the fourth quarter.
The Redwings, meanwhile, were unable to find any traction because of the constant whistles, taking their last lead of the night at 33-32 with 3:18 left in regulation.
From there, the Blackhawks finished the game on a 10-5 run, highlighted by Jayquan Lee hitting on 7-of-9 free throws down the stretch in denying Benet (27-6) its second sectional title in the last four years.
With both O’Mara, the Redwings’ junior center, and Blackhawks senior center Josh McAuley battling each other and foul trouble at the same time, rhythm was hard to find for either team.
Benet was in the double bonus with under a minute left in the third and West Aurora joined it there with 4:58 left in the fourth when McAuley hit two free throws to tie the game at 30-30.
O’Mara led Benet with 13 points, while McAuley posted a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, but both sat on the bench for big stretches of the fourth quarter.
“Sean is obviously our go-to-guy on offense and when he’s out, our offense struggles,” said Redwings senior forward Pat McInerney, who concluded his high school career with a nine-point effort. “So, our offense wasn’t as smooth as it usually is with him out. So I guess that was the difference.”
Facing the Blackhawks for the second time in just a little over a month, the Redwings came out and did what they had done throughout the postseason.
Limiting its third straight opponent in the postseason to just five first-quarter points, Friday marked the first time Benet didn’t enter the second quarter with a double-digit lead in the postseason.
Trailing by as many as five points in the first half, the Redwings went into halftime trailing for the first time during the postseason at 17-16.
“It was sluggish pretty much the whole way through,” McInerney said. “The first half, I don’t even know what the score was. But it was single-digits for a while. We had two really good defensive teams battling it out.”