Senior center Sean O’Mara scored 25 points to surpass 1,500 on the varsity and Benet used a huge third quarter to put away host Nazareth Academy 66-45 in front of a raucous boys basketball crowd Friday night.
The Redwings (16-7, 4-2 East Suburban Catholic Conference) scored 28 points in the third, including 10 from O’Mara, to break open a close game.
“We were missing shots in the first half. With this environment, on their home floor, we knew there were going to be a lot of things to go their way,” O’Mara said. “We just weathered the storm and came out (in the second half) with some energy.”
After a back-and-forth first half — both on the court and between the schools’ respective student sections, which filled nearly half the standing-room only gym — Benet outscored Nazareth 19-9 over the first four minutes of the third, culminating in a dunk by O’Mara that led to a Nazareth timeout with the score 42-29.
“They held us down in the first half,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “We were able to get a balance, getting the ball inside and our guys made perimeter shots. That created a flow for us.”
The Roadrunners (9-9, 2-4) didn’t go away easily, though. After the timeout, Kevin Connelly and Chris Swade made back-to-back 3s to get within seven and force a timeout from Benet.
Collin Pellettieri responded with his third 3 of the quarter. O’Mara followed with another dunk and then assisted on a fastbreak layup to Josh Yesufu, who finished with 10 points and made a wonderful block to get the break started, to extend the lead to 49-35 with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter.
After the team’s traded baskets, Swade provided some hope for the Nazareth faithful with back-to-back 3s to end the third and open the fourth quarter to make the score 51-43. But in the end Benet and O’Mara were too much, scoring the next 13 points, including a spectacular dunk off a steal that O’Mara was fouled on.
“When you got to go up against a kid like O’Mara … we knew what a force he is,” Nazareth coach John Bonk said. “You sort of dictate your game towards controlling him. I thought we did everything we could within our game plan.”
O’Mara, made several nice plays to find open teammates when the Roadrunners man-to-man defense would collapse, resulting in triple- and even quadruple-teams at times.
“Our game plan was to take O’Mara out of the game and try to make the other guys beat us,” said Swade, who finished with 12 points. “They’re great shooters and they lived up to their hype.”
O’Mara, who has committed to Xavier, was candid about the defense he saw.
“I’ll take that over a zone anyday,” he said.
Guard Michael Brooks carried the load for the Roadrunners in the first half and finished with a team-high 13 points.