West Aurora guard Jayquan Lee had Benet's student section in his ear at the free-throw line, yelling “Pressure!”
He knocked it down anyway, a usual sight for the Blackhawks on Friday in a third straight thriller at the Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional.
Without making a basket in the last eight minutes, West Aurora rode 15-of-20 fourth-quarter foul shooting, 23 of 36 for the game, to squeeze past Benet 42-38 in the sectional final in front of a capacity crowd of 2,050.
“Coach always tells me to take a deep breath before I shoot. It relaxes myself in a crowd. And then I guess after I started making free throws everybody believed they could make it, so everybody else made them, too,” said Lee, who scored 11 points on a 3 and 8 of 11 at the line.
No. 4 seed West Aurora avenged a 62-50 loss to Benet on Feb. 2 to advance to Tuesday's Hinsdale Central supersectional. The Blackhawks (24-6) will play Proviso East, a 67-48 winner over Oak Park at Schaumburg, in a rematch of the 2012 supersectional at the same place.
“It means the world to us,” said Lee's backcourt mate, junior Jontrel Walker, who scored 10 points with 2 fourth-quarter steals. “We made it here last year, we know what we've got to do this next game. We've got to come out and play with the same defense, the same intensity.”
Friday's game was a grinder No. 2 seed Benet (27-6) excels at. The Redwings held West Aurora below Benet's defensive average of 43.5 points.
West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman said this club has been successful whether up-tempo or not.
“We've got a little bit of a grinder-type team, and that's the way we're going to win. And it's worked for them,” he said.
In a fourth quarter of three tie scores and three lead changes, Benet led 33-32 with 3:18 to play when Lee was fouled attempting a 3-point shot and made all three free throws.
Benet, playing on no rest after Thursday's double-overtime win over Neuqua Valley, committed a turnover next time downcourt, and Lee was fouled and hit another free throw for a 36-33 Blackhawks lead with 2:19 left.
Benet came within 40-38 on Eddie Eshoo's 3-pointer from the left corner with 20.9 seconds left, followed by another Lee free throw.
Benet set up a play in the last 18 seconds but a pass went out of bounds. West Aurora center Josh McAuley made the final free throw with 5.8 seconds left to clinch it.
“We were looking to get the best shot available, put the ball in (Pat) McInerney's hands,” said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. “We thought we might have a chance to get Sean (O'Mara) on the roll and it didn't materialize.
“I can't fault it, it was one of those things where they played good defense, they took away the options that Pat was looking for.”
In a game where every possession mattered, a 5-5 score after one quarter and 17-16 West Aurora at halftime, the battle between 6-foot-7 West Aurora center McAuley and 6-9 counterpart O'Mara was key. McAuley scored 11 points with 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals. O'Mara scored 13 with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Both were in foul trouble from the third quarter on. Benet clung to a 26-25 lead when West Aurora's Chandler Thomas, subbing for McAuley, drew O'Mara's fourth foul on a charge with 1:07 left in the third quarter. The star junior sat until 6:21 of the fourth quarter.
“Obviously, having him on the bench for three to four minutes at a crucial time was a blow for us,” Heidkamp said.
“I had it in my mind before I even got on the court,” Thomas said.
“They were all physical,” said McInerney, who finished his four years on varsity with 9 points. “That's what butters your bread in March. That's why they're sectional champions back to back, because they're physical and they play great defense.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.