After four varsity seasons, Benet's McInerney comes to the end
In four years of varsity basketball you pretty much see everything.
For Benet's Pat McInerney, though, this was unique. Friday's loss to West Aurora turned out to be his last game with the Redwings.
No athlete is fully prepared for the end of a playing career, and after 100 varsity victories you couldn't blame McInerney for having a difficult time digesting the finale after West Aurora's 42-38 win over the Redwings in the Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional final.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," he said.
It will. McInerney now moves on to baseball season, the sport he'll play at the University of Illinois next year, but nothing ever will separate McInerney from his experience with Benet's basketball team.
He was a freshman when the Redwings suffered an epic overtime loss to Simeon in the 2010 supersectionals. He was the lone non-senior starter the next season when Benet won its first 29 games before losing to East Aurora in the sectional semifinals.
The numbers over the last four years are staggering. Benet's piled up 103 wins against only 18 losses while winning East Suburban Catholic Conference and regional titles along the way.
"He didn't necessarily play in all those games, but he's been here," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "We've had a really good run, and he's been a big part of it all four years."
Heidkamp credited all the seniors for this season's accomplishments. Jack Euritt and Jack Toner brought a championship mentality from the state semifinalist football team. The Redwings leaned heavily on Eddie Eshoo's perimeter game.
The Redwings went 27-6 against a brutal schedule. Only three opponents had losing records. Fourteen of 33 won at least 20 games, 20 won at least 18 games. The average record of Benet opponents was 18-9.
To achieve that kind of success takes a special group of players and a special kind of leader. McInerney was that guy.
"He's impacted our program in more ways than just his basketball abilities," Heidkamp said. "He's shown great leadership and he's just a great kid all around. Not only is he hard to replace on the court, but he's hard to replace in the locker room and hard to replace with the guys."
McInerney played the typical role as team leader after the game, patiently answering reporters' questions about the many aspects of the game.
And there were many.
Benet held a 2-point lead heading to the fourth quarter. The Redwings allowed no fourth-quarter field goals but still wound up losing because of West Aurora's 15-of-20 free-throw shooting in the final 6:21.
There were 56 total free throws and only 22 field goals. Foul trouble hampered both teams, but Benet seemed especially hurt when 6-foot-9 Sean O'Mara picked up his fourth foul with 1:07 left in the third quarter and sat three crucial minutes.
After Friday's game — regardless of whether McInerney's seen everything during his four varsity years — there's no doubt he was hoping to see just a little bit more this season.
"They know our sets, we know their sets," he said. "It's just a matter of will, and we came up on the short end."
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit
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