There are challenges, and then there's what Benet's boys basketball team accomplished on Saturday.
Faced with a virtual must-win situation in one of the state's toughest gymnasiums, the Redwings stunned St. Joseph 50-39 in a showdown between East Suburban Catholic Conference unbeatens in front of a standing-room-only crowd in Westchester.
Benet's convincing victory clinches at least a share of the program's first ESCC title since 1995. If the Redwings (21-3, 12-0) beat Notre Dame on Wednesday in Niles, they'll be outright champions.
"It's unbelievable," said Benet guard Dave Sobolewski, who scored a game-high 21 points. "It so sweet just because we know nobody really gave us that big of a chance besides the guys in our own locker room. We had confidence the whole way through."
Benet trailed 4-0 to start the game, but after a pair of 3-pointers by Sobolewski and another by Matt Parisi the Redwings held a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Benet - with Sobolewski, Parisi and 6-foot-10 Frank Kaminsky accounting for its entire 50 points - led the rest of the game as the Redwings went 10 deep into their bench.
Just because Benet led the final three quarters, though, that doesn't mean it was easy. Sobolewski tiptoed through foul trouble the entire game, picking up his third and fourth fouls in the third quarter.
Sobolewski sat the final two minutes of the third quarter and the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. Kevin Doyle came off the bench to help handle the ball as the Chargers (19-6, 11-1) picked up their pressure in the face of a growing deficit.
Benet led 34-21 when Sobolewski left with his fourth foul, and held a 38-27 advantage when he returned with five minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the game.
"With David out, we take a big scoring hit, but we had Parisi out there and he was hitting some big shots," said Kaminsky, who scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. "We were just playing hard, playing together. We knew we could win."
After building a 21-14 halftime lead, Benet extended the margin to 13 points on Sobolewski's basket right before he picked up his fourth foul.
St. Joseph couldn't take advantage of Sobolewski's absence. The Chargers missed four of five free throws that could have sliced into the deficit. They made only 9 of 20 attempts from the line for the game and missed all four of their 3-point attempts.
Parisi scored 11 points for Benet while Wayne Simon and Mantas Dubauskas each scored 10 points for St. Joseph.
"We've got a special group of kids," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "They came pretty determined to give it their best effort."