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Regardless of the outcome, history was going to be made Tuesday night and one coach would leave with a milestone victory.
While Denise Sarna's Bartlett Hawks made a nice run in the third quarter to keep alive hope of Sarna reaching the 300-win mark, it was Benet and coach Peter Paul that came up big in the end in third-round action at the Tip-Off Tournament at Naperville Central.
The Redwings (4-0) weathered Bartlett's 12-4 run to open the third quarter by countering with a 23-7 close and a 71-49 victory to give Paul the 600th victory in his illustrious career at the Lisle school.
"That was so cool. It was so cool to be a part of," said Redwings forward Emily Schramek, who led the way with four 3-pointers and 28 points. "Mr. Paul is so humble about it, but I am so proud of him."
Paul had to be proud of the way his team shot, as a 19-of-33 first half of shooting helped Benet jump ahead 44-30 at the half, with Schramek connecting on 8 of 11 shots from the floor to tally 19 points in the first two quarters. After the Hawks (1-2) closed to within 48-42 in the third quarter, Redwing Emily Eshoo answered with a pair of 3-pointers as the lead quickly grew back to 56-44.
"Just as fast it went the other way," Sarna said when asked about the third-quarter turnarounds. "It certainly was a game of runs and they have a really nice team and they shoot the ball well."
The Hawks had five players knock down 3-pointers as Kaitlin Brohan and Elizabeth Arco shared team scoring honors at 11 points apiece, but they struggled to contain a Benet offense that had nine 3s of its own and also managed to free up players for layup after layup. Point guard Kathleen Doyle ran the offense well and finished with 9 points and 7 assists.
"Congratulations to Peter Paul," Sarna said. "He runs a real nice program and he's a real classy guy. I'm real happy for him."
Paul, who is retiring after this, his 29th season as the head coach, tried to downplay the milestone, but he was greeted with signs, photo requests, cellphone calls and plenty of handshakes and hugs afterward.
"I've always said if you hang around long enough, good things will happen," he said after Benet improved to 4-0 on the year and 3-0 at the Tip-Off tourney. "I've always had great, great assistants and that's helped a lot."
The Redwings led 22-11 after one quarter after Schramek hit 5 of 6 shots for 12 points, then the game was delayed briefly after a fire alarm went off at the school. Benet led 44-30 at the half following a 3-pointer by Morgan Thomalla before the Hawks rallied a bit at the start of the third quarter. Eshoo scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half to make sure Paul would indeed reach 600.