2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 3/9/2011 12:12 AM

First time comes at wrong time for Benet

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  • Benet loses to East Aurora in sectional semifinals boys basketball Tuesday in Aurora.

      Benet loses to East Aurora in sectional semifinals boys basketball Tuesday in Aurora.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer


For 29 games Benet's boys basketball team played with machine-like precision.

In Game No. 30, the Redwings finally looked human.

And those were certainly raw, human emotions being felt in a devastated locker room after East Aurora stunned previously unbeaten Benet 60-52 in Tuesday's Class 4A East Aurora sectional semifinals.

One minute the Redwings (29-1) were the seventh-ranked team in the nation, the top-ranked team in the state and the No. 1 seed in the sectional. The next minute, dry eyes were tough to find.

Understandably, Benet's players did not speak with the media after the game.

"You learn life lessons in defeat and it's part of high school athletics, it's part of the experience," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "Only one team can win a state championship, and there's only going to be one team that doesn't shed tears in the locker room at the end of it. And unfortunately it's not us this year.

"But these kids have done so much for our program and so much for our school," he said. "They're just incredible kids. I can't say enough about them."

While Benet's unbeaten run was amazing to witness, perhaps more amazing was the way this group of players galvanized an entire community of Redwings fans.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger, more-dedicated fan base than Benet's, starting with an enormous and raucous student section.

They were there in force when Benet won three tournament championships in the regular season in addition to a second straight unbeaten romp through the East Suburban Catholic Conference. They were there when the Redwings won their second straight regional title on Friday, and they certainly were there Tuesday night in Aurora.

They saw firsthand as these players went 55-5 in two years, a run that conjured memories of the Benet glory days in the late 1970s and early '80s.

They watched classmates become heroes on the court, starting with the Redwings senior quartet of Pat Boyle, Frank Kaminsky, Matt Parisi and Dave Sobolewski. They watched sophomore forward Pat McInerney, the lone returning starter entering next season, grow up right in front of their eyes.

They saw not one but two future Big Ten talents play with mesmerizing court synchronicity. It's hard to believe Sobolewski, committed to Northwestern, and Kaminsky, committed to Wisconsin, won't be teammates anymore.

Finally, the Benet faithful felt the pain of defeat right there with the team.

Just once. The timing couldn't have been worse.

"We certainly knew that if we didn't play well that we could get beat," Heidkamp said. "There's no excuses. It's a shock, but we're not floored that we lost."

Even in defeat the Redwings showed flashes of the magic that epitomized this unforgettable season. They sliced a 17-point second-half deficit to a lone point in the fourth quarter but couldn't get over the hump.

They came up short. Just once.