When Benet's Pat McInerney was asked if his team was scrappy, the junior guard didn't hesitate with his answer.
"I don't know of one win that has been pretty," he said. "I think all 21 have been ugly, so 'scrappy' would be the correct term."
McInerney and his teammates used that scrappiness to hold off a second-half Bolingbrook rally and down the Raiders 49-44 in the semifinal of the Metea Valley regional Wednesday night in Aurora. The Redwings move on to Friday's regional final and will face the host Mustangs.
McInerney was one of the few key returnees from last season's 29-1 team and his leadership came through when Bolingbrook seemed to have the momentum. He scored all 17 of his points in the second half while battling a bloody nose and a change of jersey in the process.
"Pat's been through this before," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "He played a lot as a freshman on our team that won the sectional, and he started on our 29-1 team last year. I think he took it upon himself to help lift up his teammates, and obviously his play down the stretch was crucial for us."
Bolingbrook had no answer for sophomore center Sean O'Mara in the first half. He scored 18 of his 20 points in the first 16 minutes. He scored 14 straight at one point, with 12 coming in the paint.
"We probably struggled to get the ball to Sean in the second half," Heidkamp said. "He really carried us in the first half, and he did a real nice job defensively and setting up his teammates in the second half."
Up 28-17 at halftime, McInerney extended Benet's (21-6) lead with two quick baskets to start the third quarter, including a 3-pointer and a layup that gave his team a 33-17 lead, its largest of the night.
A 3-pointer by Bolingbrook's Alec Boyd started a 16-3 run that gave the Raiders the momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
Down 40-37 with 4:08 to go, Bolingbrook's Josh Little tied the game for the first time since the score was 2-2, scoring off a missed basket and rebound while getting fouled on the play. His subsequent free throw tied it at 40-40.
McInerney then took over down the stretch, scoring eight of his team's last nine points. He knocked down a pair of free throws to put his team back up at 44-42, then scored his team's first field goal of the fourth quarter with 2:45 left on a one-hander off the backboard.
Bolingbrook cut the lead to a single basket on two separate occasions in the final 2:20. Little's fade away in the lane made the score 44-42, followed by a 10-footer from McInerney, then a layup by Little.
McInerney secured the win with a putback off an O'Mara miss that put his team back up 48-44. John Enoch's steal on Bolingbrook's subsequent possession ended any more chances for the Raiders.