Benet seems to be going out of its way to prove the adage that defense wins championships.
Holding Marist to just 7 field goals in the game, 4 of them from behind the 3-point arc, Benet cruised to a 50-28 victory Friday night in Lisle to clinch a tie for the East Suburban Catholic Conference title.
"I thought we played pretty well defensively," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp, whose team held Wheaton Academy to 39 points Tuesday. "It was one of our better performances defensively. We played good team defense. They're very explosive, and those two guards (Marist's L.J. McIntosh and Lexus Williams) are phenomenal players, and they have other weapons as well. As a team we did a good job of making them work for shots, of making them work for points."
The Redwings can win the league championship outright with a win Wednesday at home against Nazareth.
"This is our main goal," Benet senior Pat McInerney said. "Especially this year, the ESCC is one of the best conferences in the state, and the history of this conference speaks for itself."
No. 1-ranked Benet (23-4, 6-1) grabbed the lead for good when a McInerney three-point play made the score 10-8 in the first quarter. It turned out the Redwings were in the middle of a 15-2 run, and when Jack Euritt hit a 3-pointer seconds before halftime, Benet led 28-18. The lead only increased in the second half.
For a second straight game the Redwings made nine 3-pointers, this time in 21 attempts.
"I think we've got good balance," Heidkamp said. "Everybody knows about our inside game. I think they deserve the attention that they get between (6-foot-9 junior Sean O'Mara) and Pat, then we've got some good players playing around them who are shooting the ball consistently. And I think part of the reason we're hitting a high number is we're taking good shots. If our percentage is high it's because of the fact we're not settling for quick shots or bad shots."
Things were going so well for Benet from 3-point range, that with time running out in the third quarter McInerney waved away a teammate's screen, preferring to take his defender 1-on-1. With just seconds to go, McInerney made his move, going to his left toward the top of the key, then stepping back to swish a 3 at the buzzer for a 43-25 lead.
"I kind of stepped back, used my length, and luckily it went in," the 6-5 McInerney said. "It was probably more luck than skill, but I'll take it."
"Pat's playing with a lot of confidence right now," Heidkamp said. "Pat's a really good player. He and Sean are phenomenal players, and I thought that was a big basket because it really rallied momentum for us. It just speaks to how Pat's playing right now."
McInerney finished with a game-best 17 points to go with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Jack Toner added 11 points, including three 3-ponters, for Benet.
McIntosh led Marist (16-9, 3-4) with 12 points on three 3-pointers. The high-scoring Williams, signed to play at Valparaiso, was held to 8 points, well below his average.