And this is just the beginning.
Benet’s boys basketball team stunned a near-capacity gym Friday in Niles by rallying from a double-digit deficit for a 42-41 victory over Notre Dame in the Redwings’ East Suburban Catholic Conference opener.
Pat McInerney’s bucket with 51 seconds left put the Redwings (15-3, 1-0) ahead 41-40 for their first lead since four minutes into the game. A missed shot by Notre Dame (13-2, 1-1) and a rebound by Sean O’Mara led to a McInerney free throw and a 42-40 lead with 22.8 seconds left.
Benet appeared on its way to victory when the Dons’ Eddie Serrano missed a jumper in the waning seconds, but a foul on Jack Euritt, his fifth, put Serrano on the line with a chance to tie with 0.1 seconds left. Serrano made the first free throw, making it 42-41, but missed the second as O’Mara grabbed his 10th rebound to seal the win.
“They were definitely starting to feel it a little bit as we started coming back,” said 6-foot-9 O’Mara, who scored 7 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. “It’s just a matter of keep getting back after them every time on offense, make sure we control every possession, every shot’s a good shot.”
Notre Dame — playing without injured Justin Halloran, one of its best players — matched its biggest lead at 29-17 less than a minute into the second half before Benet began its comeback. Euritt’s one-handed baseline jam highlighted a 10-4 run to close the third quarter.
“I wasn’t happy with our defense,” said Dons coach Tom Les. “We didn’t stop them. I thought our defense was good in the first half. They had trouble making entry passes to the big guy. In the second half it was a lot easier.”
Trailing 36-30 heading to the final frame, Benet continued to rally behind O’Mara in the paint. He scored 7 straight points for the Redwings, who allowed only 7 points in the game’s final 13 minutes.
“Every single game we look to get stops, and that’s what we did the second half,” Euritt said. “We weren’t happy with how we defended in the first half but in the second half we took them off what they were trying to do.”
The Dons’ Matt Mooney scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half while McInerney tallied 11 points for Benet. After connecting on 12 of 17 first-half attempts from the field, Notre Dame made only 6 of 19 second-half shots.
“We knew we’d have to establish ourselves defensively and grind our way back into the game,” said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. “We held them to 14 points in the second half and that was the difference. We needed to hold them to every one of them.”
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