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Benet is making a habit of playing close games.
It happened again Thursday when the Redwings nearly frittered away an 11-point lead before hanging on to beat Lincoln-Way North 41-40 at the Plainfield North tournament. The win allowed Benet, which had lost 39-34 to T.F. North the previous night, to avoid its first two-game losing streak of the season.
“That’s just kind of how this team has been,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said.
“We’ve had some times when we’ve been down and come back and gotten wins and we’ve had other times where we’ve struggled with the lead at the end of the game. It’s a learning process and we’ve got to get better with this as we go through the season.”
The No. 6 Redwings (8-2) weren’t at their best offensively but trailed only after the first possession. Even so, Lincoln-Way North (6-3) was able to keep the game close until 6-9 center Sean O’Mara erupted for nine points and five rebounds in the third quarter to give Benet a seemingly safe 33-22 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Phoenix fought back, outscoring Benet 18-8 in the final period, including 13-4 down the stretch. After O’Mara missed a free throw with 16 seconds left, Lincoln-Way North had a chance to win the game but Benet guard Collin Pellettieri deflected a pass and the Phoenix lost the ball out of bounds in the front court with two seconds to go.
Following a timeout, Denton Wallace stole the inbounds pass for the Phoenix but his turnaround heave from three-quarter court was well short at the buzzer.
“Coming down the stretch it’s either get a stop or lose,” Benet senior forward Pat McInerney said. “I’m happy we got a stop. Our offense wasn’t clicking like it should have been, but we gutted it out in the end.”
O’Mara scored 15 of Benet’s 24 second-half points and finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Jack Euritt and Eddie Eshoo each scored five points, while McInerney had four points, five rebounds and six assists, five of which came on baskets by O’Mara.
Cody Murphy tallied 12 points and Wallace had 11 for the Phoenix, whose play did not surprise Heidkamp.
“We knew they were a really good team,” Heidkamp said. “They’re very athletic. Obviously they did some things with their quickness and energy to force some turnovers and we have to do a little better job collectively as a team finishing around the basket.
“We had some opportunities and if we finish a little bit better I think it might be [a bigger margin] at the end. I’m happy that the guys were able to pull out the last stop.”