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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
Grabbing six postseason victories over the course of the last three years, postseason success has been tangible for Benet.
So has playing in hostile environments during the postseason.
In each of the last two years, Benet has had the unenviable task of trying to beat a team on its own floor in the postseason on three different occasions: defeating Naperville North in double-overtime to win a regional title before falling to East Aurora in a sectional semifinal in 2011 and losing to Metea Valley in a regional final last year.
Now Benet gets to turn the tables.
Hosting one of four Class 4A regionals this week, along with Batavia, Oswego East and Wheaton Warrenville South, Benet gets the honor of playing at home during the postseason for the first time since 2007.
“It’s always nice to play at home. This will be a new experience for us, playing a regional game on our home court,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “We’re excited to play in front of our fans and hopefully we come out and we’ll be ready to play good basketball next week.”
Coming along for the ride this week with the second-seeded Redwings are the two Naperville schools.
Fresh off Naperville North earning a 52-48 home victory over Naperville Central just eight days ago on Feb. 16, ensuring a season split between the two crosstown rivals, the first postseason meeting between the two rivals in seven years beckons on Wednesday night, provided the 10th-seeded Huskies beat Romeoville tomorrow.
Otis Scarver, who’s currently on the Huskies’ coaching staff, scored 17 points to help lead Naperville North to a 51-48 victory over Naperville Central in the title game of the 2006 Class AA Naperville North Regional.
It’s a prospect that neither Huskies’ coach Jeff Powers nor Redhawks’ coach Pete Kramer admittedly relish.
“It’s not what I’d want for Christmas,” Powers said earlier this month when the seeds and pairings in the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional were finalized.
With his team having already recorded its most wins in a season since Drew Crawford’s departure with 17, Kramer took it one step further.
“Ideally, if you ask Jeff, you ask me, if you ask Gene, I don’t know. It is what it is,” he said. “But you don’t want to play your archrival. You don’t want to play teams that you’ve already played twice. But it is what it is. We’re gonna have to try to find a way to get it done. The kids are looking forward to, if we can get (past) North, we got nothing to lose against Benet.”
Staring at their third meeting with Naperville North this season, a victory would catapult the Redhawks into a third meeting this season with the Redwings, after splitting the first two meetings.
A Huskies’ victory over the seventh-seeded Redhawks would set up a rematch of the classic postseason meeting the Huskies and Redwings engaged in two years ago, a 43-42 Redwings’ victory in double-overtime at Naperville North.
“We’re staying to the same cliché. We’re gonna win the day. We’re gonna get better every day,” said Powers said of his team, which finished the regular season at 19-8 after losing 61-40 at Glenbard North on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the area’s three District 204 schools—Neuqua Valley (26-2), Waubonsie Valley (20-8) and Metea Valley—all are heading to Oswego East together, with the sixth-seeded Warriors and 11th-seeded Mustangs (18-9) likely to meet for a third time on Wednesday.
“It’s a loaded sectional. Just gotta continue to progress these next two weeks, try and get better, try to get our rhythm back and then anything can happen within the sectional,” Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza said after the Warriors beat the Mustangs, 76-62, on Feb. 9 to earn a season split. “There’s very good teams everywhere, so we’re gonna have to get better and try and compete and get there, get back to play Waubonsie.”
Winning 26 games during the regular season, No. 3 seed Neuqua Valley enters the state tournament with the knowledge that the road towards the program’s seventh regional title will likely go through one of its two District 204 rivals.
The Wildcats swept the Warriors in their two meetings during the regular season, while Metea Valley pinned the first loss on the Wildcats’ ledger, courtesy of a 55-49 home win on Jan. 12, after losing by just two points on the road back in November.
“I’m really looking to playing (either Metea Valley or Waubonsie Valley). We’ve beat both of them before and I feel like we can do it again,” said Neuqua Valley senior guard Jabari Sandifer, named the Upstate Eight Valley Player of the Year on Friday. “We just have to come out (ready), especially if we play Metea, I mean, because we’ve always had something against them. We always don’t play great against them, but hopefully, whoever we play, we come out and beat them.”