You couldn't blame Benet coach Gene Heidkamp for feeling a bit concerned down the stretch of Tuesday's nonconference game against visiting York.
After all, his Redwings had just let a late lead slip away in an overtime loss to Naperville Central and now the Dukes and star guard David Cohn were making a late charge. But on this night the Redwings (4-1) had just enough to pull out a thrilling 49-44 victory over previously unbeaten York (4-1).
"We played much better defensively than we did on Friday, but we knew we had to because York's a great team with a lot of weapons," Heidkamp said. "We lost a lead the other night and I was starting to feel a little like it was déjà vu out there tonight."
But this time around Benet made plenty of big plays down the stretch, including some clutch free-throw shooting by Collin Pellettieri, a key block by Sean O'Mara of Cohn on a critical possession, and strong rebounding and defense throughout the game that made Cohn work for every one his game-high 19 points.
The Redwings built a 37-24 lead late in the third quarter following a 3-pointer by Jack Euritt, who played a big part in Cohn's 5-of-16 shooting night as Euritt and Pellettieri stayed on the sharp-shooting guard as closely as possible. But Cohn and Co. fought back to within 39-35 midway through fourth after a steal and layup by Cohn and got as close as 41-40 with 1:27 left to go after a 3-pointer by Charlie Rose. Pellietieri then helped seal the win by connecting on 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch.
"I was just looking to get the ball in and we looked for the open guy from there and it just happened to be me," said Pellettieri, who drained two foul shots to increase Benet's lead to 47-42 with 16.3 seconds remaining. "It's a great win. They've got a Division I point guard."
Cohn, committed to Colorado State, struggled to score early and Redwings forward Pat McInerney saw to it that the Dukes didn't get many second chances, finishing the night with 13 rebounds to go along with 8 points. O'Mara added 14 points, 5 rebounds and a pair of blocks, including one on Cohn who attempted to drive the lane with the Dukes trailing just 43-40 in the final minute.
"We showed great composure, especially coming off that game with Naperville Central," said McInerney, who has played in more than his share of tough games. "It's really tough to shut (Cohn) down, but the coaches had a great game plan going in tonight."
Frank Toohey had a solid game for the Dukes, scoring 10 points and battling the 6-foot-9, 240-pound O'Mara on both ends of the floor much of the night. Rose added 7 big points in the fourth quarter as the Dukes hung tough to the very end.
"I'm very proud of the way our kids battled back," York coach Vince Doran said. "O'Mara is a horse in there, and McInerney is probably one of the toughest competitors we'll see all year. We can take a lot of positives away from this game."