Benet's boys basketball team knew it was in for a tough game at York.
It finally arrived in the second half.
The Redwings broke out to a huge early lead and hung on late for Friday's 61-56 nonconference victory over York in Elmhurst.
Benet (9-4), a loser in four of its previous six games, knocked down 8 of its 10 3-pointers in the first half while building a 37-19 halftime advantage. A 16-2 third-quarter run stormed the Dukes (13-2) back in the game before Jayvon Thomas scored to pull York within 45-44 three minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Dukes, trailing 59-56, called time out with 13.9 seconds left. A missed 3-point attempt led to a pair of free throws at the other end by Collin Pellettieri, who hit both to seal the win.
"We knew it was going to get tighter because they're a very good team," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "We went into a little bit of a funk and didn't play as well as we'd like, but I think that happens when you play a team of this caliber. I'm really proud of our kids, though, because we've had some really tough losses this year. It was a sign of character that our kids made some plays at the end of the game."
York's defense collapsed on 6-foot-9 Xavier-bound center Sean O'Mara all night, fronting him with Air Force recruit Frank Toohey in the first half, but that allowed Benet's perimeter shooters better looks at the basket. Pellettieri led the 3-point barrage with four 3-pointers. Colin Bonnett, Liam Nelligan and Dan Roemer added to the 8-of-16 beyond-the-arc shooting.
It didn't take long for York to find itself in a double-digit deficit.
"They started sagging on Sean a ton, and we just got some good feeds and got it going outside," Roemer said. "The last five or six games have not gone well for us, but we've stuck with the game plan that coach gives us and played through the struggle."
Pellettieri and O'Mara scored 17 points apiece for Benet. Jack Heinle scored 14 points for York, with Toohey adding 10. Thomas and Charlie Rose scored 17 of their combined 18 points during the second-half rally.
"Hopefully, we learn a lesson that you can't dig a hole like that," said York coach Vince Doran. "But to have an opportunity to tie the game and get to where we were says a lot about our kids. Not quitting and battling to the end, you've got to be happy about that."
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit