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Pat McInerney (right) of Benet Academy drives past Kevin Hammarlund of St. Viator. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: photo-jon@comcast.net

With his team playing so well in a hostile environment in an attempt to get back into the East Suburban Catholic race, St. Viator junior Ore Arogundade was afraid he flinched.

Missing the front end of a one-and-one with 26.3 left and giving Benet a chance to tie the game late, Arogundade could only watch as Benet’s Pat McInerney stepped to the line with 9.7 left.

Watching McInerney misfire on both free throws, Arogundade finished matters with a dunk at the other end to punctuate No. 23 St. Viator’s 55-54 victory over sixth-ranked Benet Friday night in Lisle.

“A statement game for us. I think they’re a top 10 team in the state. We just feed off ... we get all hyped like that, so we wanted to come out with good intensity and upset this game [Friday] night,” Arogundade said.

Arogundade tallied a game-high 24 points to help the defending ESCC champion Lions stay alive by snapping Benet’s seven-game winning streak.

Behind junior center Sean O’Mara’s team-high 19 points and McInerney’s 14 points, Benet (19-4, 4-1 East Suburban Catholic) fought back from a 13-point second-half deficit to get to within two points a couple times in the fourth.

But the Lions had answers each and every time the Redwings began to turn the scales in their favor, which included sending both O’Mara and McInerney to the line to earn their points. Collectively, O’Mara and McInerney combined to hit on 10-of-18 free throws.

“We knew we had to be physical with [O’Mara]. We were planning on coming in with our three-headed monster of Hugh [Masterson], Tom [Martin] and Mike [McNamara] and really just trying to not let [O’Mara] catch it deep,” St. Viator coach Mike Howland said. “Now he delivered in the second half. He’s a great player. You knew he was going to come around at some point, but we just wanted to push him away from the basket as much as we could and make him work for his points.”

Trailing by two points after the first, St. Viator (15-5, 5-2 East Suburban Catholic) turned up the pressure on both ends of the floor in the second.

Outscoring the Redwings 14-4 in the second, the Lions took charge behind Arogundade.

Arogundade contributed eight points in the quarter as the Lions opened play on a 9-2 run to prompt a timeout from Benet, which failed to make a field goal in the quarter.

Typifying the Redwings’ problems in the first half was an inability to deal with the Lions’ pressure, evidenced by a pair of five-second violations and missing five free throws.

“The second quarter, we struggled on both ends of the floor. That was the difference in the game,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “[We] dug ourselves a little bit (\[of] a hole. I knew our kids would come fighting back, which they did. But it was just too much to overcome in the long run.”

 

The Lions would eventually come out of the locker room and score the first five points in the second half to build a lead as large as 13 points with 7:23 left in the third.

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