For years Benet's boys basketball team longed to host a playoff regional.
Now you know why.
Playing like not even Jordan's Bulls could come into their house and win, the Redwings stormed to their third regional title in four years with Friday's 62-36 victory over Naperville Central in Lisle.
By beating the No. 7 Redhawks (18-10) for the second time in three tries this season, second-seeded Benet (26-5) advances to Wednesday's Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional semifinals to face No. 3 Neuqua Valley (28-2), a 69-61 winner over Waubonsie Valley.
In the final home game of his four-year varsity tenure, Benet's Pat McInerney stepped up with a game-high 19 points and 8 rebounds. The 6-foot-5 forward scored 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter while adding 4 assists and 3 steals.
The Redwings tallied the game's first 7 points and never looked back.
"We came out with focus and energy like we haven't all season," said McInerney, who knocked down four 3-pointers. "I honestly think our fans are the best in the state. It's a huge plus to have this kind of atmosphere. I'm going to miss playing here. It's something I'll never experience again."
After Naperville Central's Nick Czarnowski scored to narrow the gap to 12-5 midway through the first quarter, Benet's stifling defense held the Redhawks scoreless for more than eight minutes while building a 27-5 lead.
The Redwings knocked down six first-half 3-pointers while making 13 of 19 overall shots from the field. Naperville Central, meanwhile, made 3 of 18 first-half shots.
"They just jumped on us right away," said the Redhawks' Mike Blaszczyk, who led his team with 8 points. "I think we're one of the best offensive teams in the area. We just struggled today. It was just not our night."
Naperville Central played less than 24 hours after a draining overtime win over cross-town rival Naperville North. Redhawks coach Pete Kramer refused to use that as an excuse.
"When you don't score and you don't defend, you're going to be in trouble," Kramer said. "I could talk about (Thursday) night, an emotional win. We came out and didn't have the energy we had the night before, but that's not why we got beat. We got beat by a better team."
Czarnowski, the Redhawks' 6-9 junior center, picked up his second and third fouls in rapid succession about two minutes into the second quarter. He sat the remainder of the half, making it even more difficult for Naperville Central to mount a comeback.
Benet, which received 13 points and 7 rebounds from 6-9 junior center Sean O'Mara, held a 36-11 halftime lead before building its largest lead of 56-24 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter on a Colin Bonnett 3-pointer.
"I thought we played really well on both ends, we got off to a good start," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "Both regional games we got off to a good start, so I think it carried over. They came out with a ton of confidence."
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