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posted: 3/16/2010 12:01 AM

With each win Benet adds to storied tradition

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  • BOYS BASKETBALL: Glenbard East vs Benet at Neuqua Valley in Naperville. Class 4A sectional final.

      BOYS BASKETBALL: Glenbard East vs Benet at Neuqua Valley in Naperville. Class 4A sectional final.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer


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As Benet's boys basketball program enjoys a resurgence of success this season, the players have grown to appreciate the tremendous history that preceded them.

Tonight the Redwings (26-3) will continue to earn their place within that history when they play Simeon (22-9) in the Class 4A Hinsdale Central supersectional. After winning their first sectional title since 1983, a victory would advance the Redwings into their first state semifinal appearance since 1979.

"It's awesome to be a part of such history at Benet with basketball," said junior point guard Dave Sobolewski. "I feel like the program is going in the right direction. We've had a great season up to this point, but we're still not done."

The Redwings represented a standard of excellence in the area under coach Bill Geist in the 1970s and '80s, and Marty Gaughan continued that legacy as Benet won four regional titles during his tenure.

In Gene Heidkamp's second year at the helm, Benet basketball is back on top in a big way.

"Coach Heidkamp came in last year and he talked right away about the tradition we've had with Benet basketball," said senior forward Mike Runger. "A lot of the alumni, especially from our state teams, have come out and given us great support. We've really pushed to get back to that elite level."

This year's team needs to look no further than the bench to find a reminder of the glory days. Varsity assistant coaches Scott Veselik and Mike Bremner and sophomore coach Jake Fitzgerald all played at Benet. Veselik played on the last two Benet state qualifying teams in 1982 and 1983.

Between 1977 and 1983 Benet won five sectional championships, made three Elite Eight appearances and finished third in the state in 1979. The Redwings posted a stunning home winning streak of 102 games and also won 96 straight West Suburban Catholic Conference games - both state records.

"There are a lot of roots in this program," Veselik said.

Benet again advanced to a sectional title game in 2005 before making its triumphant return on Friday with an impressive 68-54 win over Glenbard East in the final at Neuqua Valley.

With a handful of impressive playoff wins in the rearview mirror, anything is possible tonight for the Redwings against a Simeon program also steeped in history. The Wolverines own three state titles, including back-to-back Class AA championships in 2006 and 2007, and finished second in Class 3A in 2008.

Another season of success continues for both programs tonight. And as the season continues, so does the history lesson at Benet.

"Basketball's been a tradition at Benet, and we just want to keep that alive," said junior guard Matt Parisi. "We've been pretty aware of it, and we've had it in the back of our minds all season."