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At 6-9 and 240 pounds, Sean O’Mara obviously presents a daunting challenge to opponents.
It proved to be one that No. 16 Larkin was unable to surmount as O’Mara had an unforgettable evening, scoring a career-high 39 points and collecting 16 rebounds in a 76-69 victory.
O’Mara made 16-of-20 field goal attempts and 7-of-10 free throws.
Larkin (14-3) tried to pressure Benet guards Collin Pellettieri and Colin Bonnett to keep the ball out of O’Mara’s hands. It worked early on as the Redwings struggled out of the gate, with Larkin senior Kendale McCullum (21 points) scoring the game’s first eight points.
As the game progressed, however, Benet (11-4) was able to avoid turnovers and use good ball movement to either get it inside to O’Mara or rely on its proficiency beyond the three-point arc.
“I don’t think it was necessarily anything Larkin did. I think Sean played real well and I thought our kids did a real good job of finding him,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “I think in the first half we didn’t go to him as much as we should have.”
A late run in the first half gave Benet the lead for good. After being tied 26-26, Daniel Roemer took a charge, Liam Nelligan drained a three-pointer and then, after a quick turnover, O’Mara sent the crowd into a frenzy with an emphatic two-handed dunk to make it 31-26 with 1:46 left in the half.
While O’Mara was tearing up the Royals inside, his teammates gave the Benet attack some balance with Pellettieri (nine points), Nelligan (12 points) and Bonnett (14 points) combining to make seven three-pointers.
“I didn’t do a good enough job of preparing the guys to understand that we could allow (O’Mara) to do what he did but we couldn’t survive with both groups getting stuff,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “But we battled back and had a chance to buckle. The guys battled back on the road in a tough environment to make a game of it.”
Benet pulled ahead 68-55 on another O’Mara bucket midway through the fourth quarter and the Royals never got any closer than 74-69 with 18 seconds remaining.
“It was a huge win,” O’Mara said. “We have a long season, but this is a good signature win for us to get our name back out there and get where we want to be.”
Derrick Streety had 19 points and Christian Negron and Taylor Boley each had nine for Larkin.