Benet downs Proviso East to win St. Charles East crown

Benet Academy basketball coach Gene Heidkamp knew the task at hand heading into Saturday night's championship game of the St. Charles East/Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament against Proviso East.

"When you're playing against a program like Proviso East has, you're going to have to play really well to have a chance to win," said Heidkamp.

Mission accomplished.

Led by tournament Most Valuable Player Brady Kunka and all-tourney selection Brayden Fagbemi (13 points, 5 assists), the Redwings (4-0) withstood a late challenge from the Pirates (3-1) during their 68-59 title triumph in St. Charles.

"I thought our guys met the challenge," said Heidkamp, whose team knocked off Plainfield East, South Elgin and Willowbrook to reach the championship contest. "Proviso East is a great team, and their style of play causes us a lot of problems."

Bryce Coleman (13 points) and Byron Pullen scored 4 points apiece as the Pirates grabbed a 15-13 first-quarter lead.

"They sped us up early and forced us into a lot of turnovers and quick shots," said Heidkamp.

That was when Benet turned around the momentum, scoring 20 points each during the middle two quarters while building a 53-44 advantage heading into the final 8 minutes.

Clinging to a 33-28 halftime lead, the Redwings knocked down their first 5 shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers from the corner by Kunka, to extend the margin to 45-33.

"We had the five-point lead at halftime, but we knew we had to extend it," said Kunka, who scored 8 of his team-high 17 points in the third quarter. "They're (the Pirates) a very good team that can put up points quick."

Benet led by as many as 13 after a putback basket by Parker Sulaver (8 points) with 2:14 left in the third quarter.

"It was big," Heidkamp said of team's 20-point second- and third-quarter offensive production. "I thought our kids settled down a little bit and made some better decisions."

Proviso East battled back, cutting the Redwings' lead to 60-54 following Coleman's driving layup with 4:34 remaining.

Benet answered with an 8-2 run over the next 4 minutes, including 3 free throws from 6-foot-5 senior Niko Abusara (11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocked shots), to seal the decision.

"We really handled the pressure well tonight," said Kunka. "Our two guards - Niko (Abusara) and Brayden (Fagbemi) did a good job of that, as well as some other guys. The biggest thing was staying focused the entire time."

Sam Driscoll came off the bench to add 13 points and 4 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Redwings, while Kunka contributed a double-double and shot 7-0f-12 from the floor.

"Brady was as consistent as can be," said Heidkamp. "He answered the bell in all four games, not only scoring but on the glass. He did a lot for us from a leadership standpoint."

Plainfield East earned a 3rd-place finish by edging Westinghouse, 57-51.

Eddie Herrera tallied a game-high 20 points as host St. Charles East (2-2) claimed 5th place with a 72-48 victory over Willowbrook (1-3).

South Elgin (1-3), led by Victor Sison's 28 points, defeated East Aurora, 85-80, in the 7th-place game.

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