The game may have been billed as a rematch, but for Benet’s boys basketball team it went beyond seeing the same opponent.
For the Redwings, Saturday’s game against Naperville Central proved how much they’ve improved since November.
Reversing a loss from two months ago, Benet claimed a 46-35 victory over Naperville Central in the second of three games at the 16th annual National Guard High School Hoops Showdown at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.
With football players like 6-foot-9 Sean O’Mara just joining the lineup back on Nov. 23, Benet (19-3) fell 57-54 in overtime to Naperville Central (12-7) in the Hoops for Healing tournament. Now that everyone’s been in the fold for a good chunk of time, the Redwings are beginning to hit their stride.
“Our defense was a lot better, obviously, today than it was back in November,” said Benet senior forward Pat McInerney, who scored a game-high 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. “Our football guys are back in basketball shape. We were a little sluggish back then, but I’m really proud of our whole team.”
Benet immediately set the tone by scoring the game’s first 9 points en route to a 24-12 halftime lead. Naperville Central, which exploded for 68 points in Friday’s DuPage Valley Conference win over Glenbard East, sealed its own fate by making only 5 of 23 first-half shots.
“It was a lot different from last night,” said Naperville Central center Nick Czarnowski, one of three players to score 7 points for the Redhawks. “We did want to play up-tempo, but I feel like we just didn’t get what we wanted. I thought we had some good looks, especially at the beginning of the game. Our guys usually hit them. You can’t really do too much about it.”
O’Mara took over the third quarter as Benet pulled away from the post. The junior center scored 10 of his 12 points in the period, and then a McInerney free throw to start the fourth quarter matched Benet’s largest lead of 19 points.
“I credit a lot to Mac, he hit me with three great passes in a row and just kind of got me going,” O’Mara said. “I struggled a little bit in the first half getting some good shots. Again, Mac had great passes like always.”
Eddie Eshoo’s three 3-pointers helped loosen things up for O’Mara inside as the game progressed. Ryan Antony scored 7 points for the Redhawks before fouling out, and Taylor Zelinski added 7 points off the bench.
“The biggest frustration was we just didn’t shoot the ball well,” said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer. “That hasn’t happened much this year, but it happened today. When we don’t shoot the ball well, it’s tough to beat a good team like Benet.”
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