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For three quarters, Benet boys basketball coach Gene Heidkamp couldn’t have been much happier with the way his team played Friday at St. Patrick.
The Redwings were up by 16 points in a difficult road environment and dominating the post with junior Sean O’Mara and senior Pat McInerney.
But Heidkamp’s outlook on the game was clouded by a tough fourth quarter. Though the Redwings held on for a 54-47 East Suburban Catholic win, Benet went 7-for16 from the free throw line in the final quarter and turned the ball over five times. The closest St. Patrick could get was six points, but it was not what Benet wanted to see down the stretch.
“We obviously didn’t play as well as we would like in the fourth quarter,” Heidkamp said. “We didn’t make the plays to keep the lead where we wanted it. We don’t shoot (free throws) that bad, but we don’t necessarily shoot it well. That’s been an issue for us throughout the year. We played very, very well, but that’s hidden by the fact that we didn’t finish the game well.”
O’Mara helped the Redwings (21-4, 5-1 ESCC) establish the big early cushion. Once the big fella got going down low, Benet turned a close game early into a 31-20 lead late in the second quarter. O’Mara scored 18 of his game-high 23 points in the first half and wound up shooting 9-for-14 from the field overall.
“Like most teams, it’s a little difficult to re-enact that size,” St. Patrick coach Mike Bailey said of the 6-foot-9 O’Mara. “He really added some good post-up technique to his game. He’s always been a very unselfish player and a good passer. It’s hard to practice, but you just stay with your team concepts.”
Benet had a 10-0 run in the third that seemingly put St. Patrick (14-7, 3-3) away, led by three lay-ups from McInerney, but the Shamrocks hung around. They opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run led by eight points from sophomore Nicholas Coleman to cut the lead to 47-41.
Benet didn’t score again until there were two minutes left in the game. The Redwings collectively hit only 1-of-8 from the free throw line to start the quarter, but managed to hit enough to stave off another late St. Patrick charge.
“It’s frustrating (closing the game poorly), but when we play defense like that, a win’s a win, as frustrating as that is,” McInerney said. “We had a great week of practice. We were ready for this game. We’ve had a pretty tough schedule so far, so when we come to places like this in a hostile environment, we’re ready to play.”
McInerney had 12 points and 14 rebounds for Benet. Royale Ewing led St. Patrick with 12 points. Coleman added 11 points and Elijah Watson had eight assists and seven rebounds.