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A tough environment and a tough pressing defense caused some troubles for Benet on Monday night, but only for one half.
The Redwings, breaking in some new varsity starters in their season opener at the Oswego/Naperville North Hoops For Healing tournament, trailed the host Huskies 29-28 at the half before using a big second half to prevail 70-56. Benet's defense picked up after the intermission and the team also handled Naperville North's full-court press much better, allowing the visitors to take control with an 18-8 third quarter.
"In the first half we were rattled by their pressure, but the second half we played with a little bit more poise," said Redwings coach Gene Heidkamp, whose team outscored the Huskies 42-27 over the final two quarters on Monday. "We were more effective and we got some easier baskets on the back end of it that we were not getting in the first half. I thought handling pressure and defending in the third quarter really was the key for us."
The Huskies pressured the Redwings into 5 second-quarter turnovers and on the offensive end, Anthony Rehayem was unstoppable, tallying 18 of his game-high 24 points with a number of slashes to the basket that led to 5 field goals and a 8-for-8 effort from the foul line in the game's first 16 minutes.
The Huskies also limited Benet big man Sean O'Mara to just 6 points on 3-of-10 shooting before the intermission, but the 6-foot-9 senior broke out for 13 points in the second half -- two on a dunk that lifted Benet to 41-34 lead -- to finish with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
But O'Mara had plenty of help as speedy guard Josh Yesufu recorded a personal-high 15 points in his first varsity start, and Collin Pellettieri sank four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points.
"It was good defense by the whole team and great outlet passes that got me good shots," said Yesufu, who slashed his way to the rim with a variety of baseline drives and fastbreak darts. "It was a great team effort. I like driving and I like a little pull up. That's my game."
Naperville North coach Jeff Powers liked what he saw out of Rehayem and couldn't complain with his defense on O'Mara early on but felt his team just didn't keep it up on the defensive end in the second half.
"We did a nice job on him (O'Mara) in the first half," he said. "But we had some other things that we didn't do, some double-teams that we didn't get through and No. 3 (Pellettieri) killed us with his 3s. We didn't close him out very well. I thought Rehayem played really, really well.
"We've got some talent, but we play some good teams. Tomorrow's no cakewalk with Neuqua."
Neuqua Valley won Monday's earlier contest 82-69 over Oswego East.