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Eddie Eshoo (4) shoots a free throw for Benet Academy after a technical foul was called against Nazareth Academy. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: firstname.lastname@example.org
The free throw line can be a very lonely place, especially with the clock reading triple zeros.
Struggling collectively for much of the night from the charity stripe, which has been a season-long issue for Benet, Redwings junior center Sean O’Mara had one last chance to atone.
With the game tied with no time left opposite a scrappy Nazareth team, O’Mara confidently sank his first toss to give No. 7 Benet a 48-47 win over Nazareth. The victory secured the outright East Suburban Catholic Conference title for the Redwings, who have won the league championship for the third time in four seasons.
“I got two chances. Might as well hit the first one, get it over with,” said O’Mara, who converted just three of his 10 free throws on the night.
O’Mara led the Redwings with 14 points while Pat McInerney recorded another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The Redwings were up nine points with 3:48 left to play after a personal 7-0 run from McInerney, but the Roadrunners battled back to tie the game at 47-47 with under 10 seconds left, courtesy of a Dan Kienzle three-pointer.
Going right in the post to O’Mara, who had 12 points in the second half, the Redwings were rewarded with a foul.
The 6-foot-9 junior had little doubt he’d come through.
“I’ll take it. I’ll take my chances at the line any day to win a game. I know, as a team, we haven’t been that great at free throw shooting, but it’s something that we have to fight through,” he said. “We’ve always found a way to get through it.”
With the victory, the Redwings laid claim to their 100th victory in the last four years while also posting their 37th win inside the ESCC during that time frame.
“I think it’s been a good run. I think when you consider the caliber of teams that we’re playing, we’re pleased, obviously, because we think we’re playing really good schedule,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “Our conference is exceptionally strong and we think our nonconference schedule is very strong, as well.”
Getting out to a 10-2 lead after scoring the game’s first eight points, Benet (24-4, 7-1) held the Roadrunners scoreless for the game’s opening 4:56 and without a field goal 6:45 into the game.
Nazareth (13-13, 1-7) responded by going on a 13-2 run to take a short-lived 15-12 advantage before the Redwings concluded the half on a 13-4 run of their own.
Eddie Eshoo had five of the Redwings’ 13 points during the run as Collin Pellettieri, Eshoo and Colin Bonnett all hit on three-pointers during the surge.
John Bonk had a game-high 17 points for the Roadrunners.