With the game on the line in Arlington Heights it became Ore time -- again.
For the second time in less than two weeks, St. Viator's Ore Arogundade dropped in a crucial floater to help decide an outcome, this time propelling the Lions past Benet 71-68 Friday in East Suburban Catholic Conference play.
After tying the game nearly two weeks ago against Hinsdale Central with a similar shot in a game the Lions ended up winning in overtime, it was who Arogundade who struck again. This time, he dropped a shot over Benet's 6-foot-9 Sean O'Mara with to put the Lions up 69-68 with 11 seconds to play.
"It was almost like our game two weeks ago," said Arogundade, who finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds and was 10-for-11 from the free throw line. "I like the ball in that situation. I don't want to sound selfish, but I like taking those shots down there at the end."
St. Viator coach Mike Howland was ecstatic about the way Arogundade has come up big when the Lions need him.
"That kid hits big shots," a hoarse Howland said. "He just finds a way to put the ball in the hole."
Even with St. Viator (15-3, 3-1) up, the Lions still had to contend with Benet and O'Mara down the stretch.
But the Lions fouled with 2.8 seconds to play and Benet (11-5, 1-2) went to the line with with a chance to tie or win. The St. Viator student body, buoyed by some 180 eighth-grade incoming students, nearly raised the roof of Cahill Gymnasium as the Red Wings missed both free throws. Roosevelt Smart then canned two free throws with just under a second left to clinch the victory for St. Viator.
"The noise was incredible," said Arogundade, who was encouraging the students between free throws after a timeout.
"Our students came up big for us. The loudness affected the shots. It was great."
Benet led 64-57 with 2:25 to play. But the Lions forced three turnovers down the stretch and Benet converted just 50 percent of its free throws (8-of-16) in the fourth quarter. Benet finished 16-for-27 from the foul line in the game.
"That was part of it," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "We still could have won the game by overcoming that. But in reality, we needed more stops down the stretch."
Benet was able to lead thanks to the play of O'Mara, who finished with 39 points and 13 rebounds.
"Sean is a dominant player," Heidkamp said. "He has had an unbelievable season. We are getting as much out of him as we could possibly ask for."
O'Mara, who was 15-for-21 from the field, forced both Sal Cannella and Tom Martin to foul out. Still, Howland was pleased with how his players defended the Xavier-bound O'Mara.
"He (O'Mara) is one of the best players in the state and certainly one of the best post players," Howland said. "And he has our guys by 60 pounds. Our guys made him work and they found a way to get enough stops."
St. Viator got some of those stops early as the Lions forced 7 Redwings turnovers to lead 12-5.
But Benet settled down thanks to O'Mara and the play of Liam Nelligan (10 points) and Dan Sobolewski (9 points). With those two hitting from the outside, Benet scored 11 unanswered points in the second quarter to lead 24-16.
Benet led 37-26 early in the third quarter when St. Viator went work. Led by Roosevelt Smart (23 points) and Patrick McNamara (11 points), the Lions closed to 45-41 on McNamara's 3-pointer with 3:58 left in the third quarter.
Again Benet threatened to pull away as the Redwings led 55-47 after three quarters and 61-52 with 4:57 to play on a 3 by Nelligan.
A 3 by Mark Falotico on the Lions' next possession and a steal and driving basket by Smart got the Lions and their crowd right back into the game.
"I tried to do what I needed to do," Smart said. "We were down and we needed some big plays, so I knew it had to make them."
St. Viator took the lead for the first time since the first quarter when McNamara buried a 3 from the deep right corner off a pass from Arogundade with 53 seconds to play to make it 67-66. Benet regained the lead 25 seconds later when O'Mara drained 2 free throws to put the Redwings up 69-68.
And then it was Ore time.
After a timeout, the Drake-bound Arongundade calmly walked the ball up the court with 28 seconds to play. After driving inside, he passed back to wide open Robert Grant, who quickly eschewed the shot and gave the ball back inside to Arogundade, who stepped back and floated the ball over the outstretched arms of O'Mara.
"I love making the big play," Arogundade said.
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