The calendar read Dec. 10, but it was pure March Madness before a raucous full house at Benet Academy on Friday night as a pair of undefeated teams the Redwings and visiting Notre Dame met for an early statement game in the East Suburban Catholic Conference and the state.
There were two major differences in the teams that helped Benet (6-0, 2-0) post a 65-58 victory: first, the Dons (7-1, 1-1) had no answer for Frank Kaminsky, the Redwings' 7-foot senior center, who scored a game-high 32 points; and second, Kaminsky and his fellow senior starters, Dave Sobolewski, Matt Parisi and Pat Boyle, exhibited the self-assuredness that only experience can bring as they coolly repelled numerous Notre Dame runs in the second half.
"We have four seniors that start and they've been through the battles," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "They made a couple runs at us, but we never got flustered and made some big answer baskets."
Among those were back-to-back 3-pointers by Boyle and Parisi after Notre Dame, behind the hot 3-point shooting of Ryan Tompkins and silky inside moves of Quinton Chievous, had pulled within 42-37 midway through the third quarter, and Kaminsky's offensive rebound and putback that restored a 9-point lead at 60-51 with 2 minutes, 34 seconds to play.
The Dons, on the other hand, had no answer for Kaminsky. The breadth of his enviable skill set was on full display in a 59-second stretch of the second quarter when he provided a slick bounce pass to Pat McInerney for a layup, turned an inside feed from Sobolewski into a two-handed dunk and then stepped out to the wing to drain a 3-pointer, which put the Redwings ahead 27-16 on the way to a 37-24 halftime edge.
Then, with Benet holding a 50-40 lead going to the fourth quarter, the Redwings fed Kaminsky in the post on four straight possessions and he responded with buckets each time, helping to push the lead to 56-42 at one point.
"I knew I had a size advantage and my team did a great job getting me the ball over the top," Kaminsky said. "I just try to get it up quick. I knew the defense would collapse on me so I just try to shoot it quick."
Watching Kaminsky dominate his defense was Notre Dame coach Tom Les' worst nightmare coming true.
"He's good around the basket, and when he gets it in the paint he has a huge advantage," he said. "We knew we had to front him and tried to put pressure on their perimeter players, but it wasn't good enough, and when we gave them an extra second they made us pay."
The Dons actually had the better of the early action as Chievous' 5 points helped carry them to a 10-6 lead, but the Redwings closed the first quarter with a 10-0 run that included a Sobolewski 3-pointer that put him over 1,000 points on the varsity.