Boys basketball: McAuley, O’Mara battle to a draw in the post
By Paul Johnson For Sun-Times Media March 8, 2013 10:36PM
Josh McAuley (top) grabs a rebound for West Aurora in front of Sean O'Mara (45) and Pat McInerney of Benet Academy. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 11:19PM
Coming into Friday’s Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional title game between Benet and West Aurora, much of the focus was on the battle in the paint between Benet junior Sean O’Mara and West senior Josh McAuley.
While McAuley got the better end of the deal team-wise, with the Blackhawks posting a 42-38 win to advance to Tuesday’s Hinsdale Central Supersectional, the two big men dueled to a virtual draw.
O’Mara scored 13 points to go with eight rebounds, a steal and a block, shooting 4-for-11 from the field and 5-for-8 from the free-throw line. McAuley countered with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field and 5-of-9 from the line with 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
“I just knew I had to come up big on defense,” McAuley said. “I tried to put pressure on him and contest his shots and not give up any easy dunk attempts. That pretty much set the tone for the game.”
West coach Gordie Kerkman admitted Benet probably relies more on O’Mara offensively than the Blackhawks do on McAuley, which made West’s defense on O’Mara that much more important.
“We wanted to get as much help from the weak side as we could and we wanted to double down with our second guy off the baseline,” Kerkman said. “We don’t do it all the time, but particularly with a guy like him, Josh has to have some help down there. I think it probably worked pretty well. Josh got 11 and Sean got 13, and I think they look to him more than we look to Josh.”
McAuley said that early on the Blackhawks tried to hide the defense to not show O’Mara all of their tricks.
“The plan was to eventually come down and double, but we didn’t want to start out in it right away to let him know what we were doing,” McAuley said. “So we kind of disguised it by me playing face-up with him. Eventually, we came and doubled down. Overall, we played pretty good defense on him as a team.”
Another factor working against O’Mara was foul trouble. He picked up his fourth foul on a borderline call with 1:07 left in the third quarter and the Redwings up 26-24. He came back in with 6:21 left in the fourth and West had only cut the lead to 29-28, but the missing time hindered Benet.
“It obviously hurt us quite a bit to have Sean on the bench a good period of time,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “It limited his effectiveness. Having him on the bench for three to four minutes in a crucial time was a blow for us. We depend on him for so much offensively and not having him out there hurt.”
What made West’s defense on O’Mara look even better was the job the Blackhawks did on the perimeter — in addition to the attention being paid to O’Mara. West held Benet to only 29 field-goal attempts as a team, and the Redwings hit 13 of them.
“I think the real battle was down there, but I thought our kids did an outstanding job on the perimeter,” Kerkman said. “I think we pushed their offense out far enough, particularly when they had the ball out front, where it’s quite a ways to throw the ball to the post, particularly the low post.”