Benet survives 'gut check'
Benet and Wheaton Academy each benefitted by Tuesday's boys basketball game.
The visiting Redwings, No. 1 in the Daily Herald rankings, improved to 22-4 with a 51-39 nonconference win in a tough crowd in West Chicago, including fans in a chicken suit and a maroon Morphman costume.
"This is a tough environment to play in," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "I think that's something that makes the game even more appealing. It's a gut check for our kids to have a crowd on them. We've played in a ton of those games so far, but another one certainly doesn't hurt, especially before the state tournament."
Wheaton Academy (18-6) executed its point of emphasis — get a handle on Benet's 6-foot-9 center Sean O'Mara, restraining the big junior to 12 points and 8 rebounds.
"Definitely a win-win for both teams. They won the game, but we got a lot better from this game," said Wheaton Academy senior guard Collin Roy, who scored a game-high 18 points.
But outside the double-teams applied by Wheaton Academy's 6-8 Gordon Behr and whoever else could hassle O'Mara, Rob Haemmerle came off Benet's bench hot for four 3s and a team-high 13 points. Seventh man Colin Bonnett hit two 3s and do-it-all senior forward Pat McInerney scored 10 points with 11 rebounds. The Redwings made 18 of 36 shots, 9 of 16 from the arc and defensively forced 29 percent shooting.
"They had to help a lot on Sean and that opened up a lot of blast screens and stagger screens and I just had to come off those screens and got wide-open shots because my teammates set great screens, delivered the ball on time and it just worked in our favor," Haemmerle said.
A fast first quarter by Behr, 8 of his 14 points — "He's a pretty good player," McInerney said — was undone by a 10-0 Benet run capped by a 3 from Haemmerle, just in the game.
"Our main goal was to stop O'Mara and let the other guys make shots. They didn't miss a shot tonight. It was ridiculous," Roy said.
Benet led 26-15 at halftime but Wheaton Academy cut Benet's lead to 37-28 entering the fourth. The Redwings started the fourth on a 12-0 run — 3s by Haemmerle, Jack Euritt and Bonnett and Jack Toner's inbounds pass setting up a McInerney three-point play. Roy's 11 fourth-quarter points weren't enough.
"Unfortunately we didn't shoot the ball well tonight," said Warriors coach Paul Ferguson. "But defensively we got better tonight. We were able to execute our game plan defensively pretty well, and I'm excited about that as we head to the state tournament."
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