Benet might not have won Wednesday's regional game in the first 200 seconds, but the Redwings sure did let Plainfield North know it might be in for a long night.
The second-seeded Redwings (25-5) jumped ahead 13-3 with 4:40 still left in the opening quarter following a 3-pointer by Jack Toner. Just prior to that outside attack, 6-foot-9 center Sean O'Mara scored on a short turnaround jumper and that basket followed the first of five dunks on the night by O'Mara.
With Benet dangerous from the inside and the outside, the visiting 15th-seeded Tigers never stood a chance. They saw their season come to a close on the short end of a 63-39 score that sends Benet into Friday's Class 4A regional title game in Lisle against the winner of Thursday's battle of the Napervilles.
"We were really focused at the start of the game and we executed on both ends of the floor," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said after his team blitzed Plainfield North 26-8 in the opening quarter. "That was one of the best first quarters we've had all year."
The Tigers (14-14) had no answer for O'Mara inside as the junior center recorded 13 points and 9 rebounds in the first half on his way to a 24-point, 10-rebound, 5-block evening. O'Mara had plenty of support as Pat McInerney added 7 points, 10 boards and assisted on many of the Redwings' first-quarter baskets. On top of that, five Benet players connected from beyond the arc for a total of six 3-pointers, including 2 from Eddie Eshoo.
"They definitely overwhelmed us early," said Tigers coach Nick DiForti, whose squad lost to Benet earlier this year in holiday tourney action. "Hats off to them. They're a tough matchup for any team."
Especially tough when O'Mara is dominating inside the way he did. The big man slammed second-chance buckets, finished fastbreak opportunities, flashed some fancy footwork around the basket and even stepped back to drain a 15-footer that lifted Benet to a 55-25 lead early in the fourth quarter.
"It's the playoffs. We're ready to go," O'Mara said about the Redwings' strong start. "If our guards are hitting it opens up the inside for me. I have a great team around me. It's easy when they know when to get me the ball."
The Redwings will either face Naperville Central for a third time this season in Friday's title game or Naperville North, which they beat back in the season opener.
"They're both excellent teams with excellent coaches," Heidkamp said. "It's obviously a difficult challenge to play either team, but it should be fun."
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