OMara, Benet make the transition
On Saturday night Sean O'Mara served as the starting left tackle in Benet's Class 7A semifinal loss to Lincoln-Way East.
Within 48 hours O'Mara transformed into a high-profile 6-foot-9 junior center as if he'd been practicing with his team all along.
With one practice under his belt, O'Mara nailed all six of his shots in the opening 10 minutes to stake Benet to a healthy lead that became a 47-39 victory over Naperville North in the opening round of the Hoops For Healing tournament on the Huskies' home floor.
Though O'Mara sat out most of the third quarter with three fouls, he finished with 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field.
"I figured football was done, unfortunately, and I want to play basketball," O'Mara said. "I want to compete."
Benet held practice Sunday to give O'Mara and other football players time to re-engage with senior standout Pat McInerney and the rest of the full-time hoopers.
With important returnees Jack Toner and Jack Euritt sitting out to allow some football wounds to heal, Benet rode O'Mara and McInerney — who had 10 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists — until the other Redwings felt comfortable.
On Benet's second possession of the season, McInerney fed O'Mara in the post for a layup.
As the first quarter progressed, O'Mara twice used a textbook drop step for layups and also swished a 17-footer. Then, with 1.2 seconds left on the clock, McInerney's full-court inbounds pass found O'Mara at the free-throw line for a 17-foot turnaround as the buzzer sounded to stake Benet to a 16-3 lead.
"I thought he was going to be out of shape and everything," McInerney said. "He looked pretty good starting off."
"They killed us the first half on the boards and we didn't have an answer for the big man," said Naperville North coach Jeff Powers.
But the Huskies rallied in the third quarter to get within 28-26 as senior Derek Westman — the top returnee from last year's DuPage Valley Conference champs — kept driving the baseline for wraparound layups and Jayson Winick turned a fastbreak into a three-point play.
But that's when one of Benet's young guns stepped to the fore. With 1:45 left in the third, 6-foot-2 sophomore Colin Bonnett slashed into the lane, spun and drew a foul that turned into two free throws.
The Huskies (0-1) never got closer than 4 points again, though they missed a few opportunities with the score 38-34 in the final 2:30.
Junior point guard Collin Pellettieri hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute to help clinch the win.
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