Benet boys basketball coach Gene Heidkamp didn't even wait for the first question of his postgame media session to be finished.
He knew exactly what won this game.
"Better defense," Heidkamp said after notching his 100th victory with the program. "I'll make it real short for you. In the first half we didn't defend like we expect to defend. And from the three-minute mark of the second quarter into the second half we played defense like we expect to play defense."
Scoring the first 16 points of the fourth quarter, Benet pulled away to a 63-49 victory over Morton in second-round action from the Proviso West Holiday Tournament on Thursday in Hillside. The Redwings (12-2) advance to the quarterfinals to face powerhouse Proviso East (8-2) at 5:15 p.m. Friday.
Struggling against a zone defense from Morton (8-2), designed to collapse on 6-foot-9 Redwings junior Sean O'Mara, Benet fell behind 29-22 on a Jarvis Cannon 3-pointer midway through the second quarter. Colin Bonnett and Robert Haemmerle, however, combined for three late 3-pointers as Benet entered halftime with a 31-29 lead.
In addition to the 3-pointers, the play of Benet senior forward Pat McInerney kept the Redwings in the game. McInerney, recovering from Christmas food poisoning, scored the team's first 14 points and finished with a game-high 27 points.
"The first half, that was probably one of the worst halves of defense we've played," McInerney said. "The second half we turned it up. We got some turnovers, rebounded a lot better and we converted on the other end."
Morton adjusted and kept McInerney in check for a long stretch, but Benet's defense began to take over. The Redwings held the Mustangs scoreless for nearly the first six minutes of the quarter while bolting on their 16-0 run.
Morton was forced out of its zone and into man-to-man defense, which allowed O'Mara, who dealt with second-half foul trouble, to dominate the post. He scored 7 of his 11 points in the fourth quarter while helping Benet build its biggest lead of 61-42.
Haemmerle came off the bench and scored 12 points while Greg Carter led Morton with 20 points and Waller Perez added 14 points.
"We couldn't guard them man, and that's why we tried to play zone," said Mustangs coach Tony Martinucci. "They threw the big guy back in the game and we had no answer We got tired a little bit and the shots started coming up short."
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