Billed as a battle between the last two champions of the Proviso West Holiday Basketball Tournament, Benet Academy staged a furious fourth-quarter rally that fell short during its 50-46 quarterfinal loss to Proviso East on Friday night in Hillside.
Trailing by as many as 15 points late in the third quarter, the Redwings (12-3) nearly came all the way back, pulling within 1 on separate occasions during the final 2½ minutes of the contest.
Junior center Sean O'Mara's inside bucket helped the Redwings trim the deficit to 45-44 with 2:30 remaining but O'Mara was called for an offensive foul after his defensive rebound on the Pirates' next possession.
Jevon Carter banked in a 12-foot jumper to put defending champion Proviso East (9-2) on top 47-44 with 1:46 left but a pair of free throws by Jack Toner 13 seconds later once again brought Benet to within 1 at 47-46.
After Carter hit 2 free throws to up the Pirates' lead to 3 with 39 seconds remaining, the Redwings committed their 26th turnover of the game on their next possession and Proviso's Brandon Jenkins split a pair of foul shots with 15 seconds left to ice it.
"There's no moral victory here," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "We turned the ball over way too much and we didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had. We played better at the end of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter but the bottom line was we didn't play well.
"I give a lot of the credit to Proviso East," added Heidkamp, whose team will face Homewood-Flossmoor in today's fifth-place semifinals. "And when you shoot 11 of 21 at the foul line, it's hard to beat a team as good as Proviso East."
The game was tied at 14-14 after 1 quarter before Proviso's vaunted defensive pressure paid huge dividends.
The Pirates forced 12 Benet second-quarter turnovers during a 17-4 surge that left the Redwings trailing 31-18 at the intermission. Proviso scored 7 points in a 49-second span, capitalizing on 3 consecutive Benet miscues.
"Obviously we didn't handle the pressure as well as we would have liked," said Heidkamp. "Their pressure spotted them a huge lead. We're disappointed with how we played."
Despite the ballhandling issues, the Redwings excelled in some areas, particularly on the boards where they out-rebounded Proviso East by a staggering 33-14 margin.
They were also successful at feeding O'Mara in the low block down the stretch, as the 6-9, 240-pounder scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter. O'Mara, who added 8 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, made 8 of his 9 field-goal attempts.
Pat McInerney had 7 points and 11 rebounds, while Jack Euritt added 7 points for the Redwings.
Illinois State-bound Paris Lee paced the Pirates with 13 points and 4 steals.
"They're a good team," Heidkamp said of Proviso East. "I think they were picked in the top three by most major polls at the start of the season. For us to still have a chance to win the game in the last five minutes speaks well of our kids, too."