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The Proviso West Holiday tournament is a benchmark for Benet. Two years ago the Redwings won the tournament as part of their magical undefeated regular season. Last year, they gave tournament champion Proviso East its toughest competition in the quarterfinals.
“This is the coolest tournament, the biggest one we play in all year, and now with the added teams, it’s like a mini-NCAA tournament with the 32 teams,” forward Jack Euritt said.
The No. 13 Redwings made their own statement, exploding out of the gate with a 15-0 run and posted a 31-point advantage as they hammered Urban Prep-West 64-44 in first round Saturday in Hillside.
Benet (11-2) shut out the Lions for more than five minutes at the start, holding the Public League program to just a Michael Baker three-pointer in the first quarter in running out to a 17-3 early lead.
“The coaches really stress defense, and we know that, in games like this, where it’s uptempo, we have to really take away what teams like to do,” Euritt said.
Six-foot-9 junior Sean O’Mara hit all five field goals he attempted in the first half in scoring a team-best 11 points. Senior forward Pat McInerney contributed 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
During one stretch of the second quarter, O’Mara and McInerney combined for three consecutive layups that underlined their superior inside game. “We knew we had a size advantage on the inside, and we really wanted to get the ball inside,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said.
The Redwings outrebounded Urban Prep-West 48-28.
Euritt (nine points, four rebounds) and senior guard Eddie Eshoo (eight points) drilled back-to-back three-pointers that propelled the Redwings to a 36-13 lead at the break.
Baker scored the first eight points for the Lions (8-4). Baker and LaJuan Miller were the only Urban Prep-West players that scored in the first half.
Benet turned the game into a rout by scoring the first eight points of the third quarter for its largest lead at 44-13 and began resting its starters. Thirteen of the 14 Benet players that saw action scored.
Miller scored a game-high 16 points and Baker added 13 points for the Lions.