Benet forward Pat McInerney epitomized the way his team played in Friday's East Suburban Catholic Conference showdown at rival Nazareth.
McInerney only practiced once this week because of the flu, but that didn't stop the sophomore from making some gutsy plays down in the stretch.
In the final 2:28 of a tight battle in front of a packed hostile gym of nearly 900 fans, McInerney scored 6 points, pulled down 2 huge defensive rebounds and blocked a shot to help the Redwings remain undefeated with a hard-fought 57-51 victory over the Roadrunners in LaGrange Park.
With the triumph Benet improved its overall record to 22-0, 8-0 in the conference. The Redwings did it without the services of standout senior point guard Dave Sobolewski who sat out because of a back injury. The Northwestern-bound Sobolewski is a three-year starter.
"It is not pretty right now, but the bottom line is that we had to do what we had to do to get the win," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "We knew it was going to be a heck of a game.
"Pat made some huge plays down the stretch. He definitely gutted it out. He is a sophomore and is a heck of a player for us already."
The Redwings had three players hit double figures scoring led by 16 points by 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky, who used his substantial height advantage to drop in jump hooks and other shots. James Roemer and Pay Boyle also tallied 12 and 11 points, respectively.
For Nazareth (15-5, 5-3), it was led by a game-high 19 points from forward Ryan Powers, who sank a trio of 3-pointers. It was the Roadrunners' long-range shooting that gave them the early lift. Dan Clarke, Matt Behrendt and AJ Ryan all made 3-pointers as Nazareth led 16-15 at the end of the first quarter. The score was tied at 29 at halftime.
"We only have the inside presence of Ryan Powers so we have to shoot well to beat teams, especially against this team because you are not going to get much around the basket," said Nazareth coach John Bonk.
To open the third quarter, Benet reeled off 8 unanswered points -- 3-pointers by Boyle and Roemer and an offensive board by Roemer. The Redwings led 44-35 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Nazareth stayed within 4 points on two occasions in the fourth quarter. A 3 by Powers from the top of the key brought the house down, 51-47 with 2:06 to play. Benet, however, finished it with the play of McInerney and others.
"We kept our poise," McInerney said. "We are a senior-oriented team and have been through close games down the stretch. I was focusing on hitting my free throws. Every time a shot would go up, I was looking to grab the ball. The whole team did great down the stretch and played good defense."