Benet arrived for Friday night's Class 4A Lemont regional final hoping to prove it can play defense at a high level.
Waubonsie Valley left Lemont thoroughly convinced the Redwings' defense is more than good enough.
Benet held the eighth-seeded Warriors to just 8 first-half points and won easily 57-33, earning the regional championship.
"We had a tough night shooting. A tough night of everything," Waubonsie Valley coach Chaz Taft said. " ... That's why they're the 1 seed, man. That's why they're the 1 seed. They're a fundamentally sound basketball team."
Benet (21-7) jumped on the Warriors (19-10) from the start, taking a 16-2 lead after one quarter.
"The focus going into the game was to do it in the defensive end," Redwings senior Liam Nelligan said. "Offensively it usually comes to us with the big man inside and shooters on the outside."
The big man, 6-foot-9 forward Sean O'Mara, the Daily Herald All-Area captain and a Xavier University recruit, led all scorers with 15 points, at one time in the third quarter outscoring the Waubonsie Valley team. He also had 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, forcing the Warriors to be careful when coming inside.
From outside nothing seemed to drop until it was too late. The Warriors made just 6 of 32 shots through the first three quarters, trailing 46-14 going into the fourth.
"I was happy with our performance. I think we played pretty good defense," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. " ... Maybe they were cold tonight and we played solid defense. Maybe it was a combination of both because they're obviously a very good team, so I'm pleased with our defensive effort."
Ironically, the Redwings weren't impressed with their offense.
"We obviously played well defensively. I don't think we had the best offensive game of the year, but when you really buy into the system defensively, it comes easier on the offensive end," Nelligan said.
"I don't think we played all that well offensively in the first half," Heidkamp added. "We only had 26 points. That's below what we normally would score in a half. But I thought our defensive pressure and our defensive effort was pretty solid."
The Redwings advance to the East Aurora sectional semifinals, where they will meet No. 4 seed Hinsdale Central at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Their celebration Friday was muted.
"It's one game at a time," Nelligan said. "It is exciting, yeah, but it's not the end of the journey. It's just one accomplishment, and now we're going to try to win the next game, the sectional semifinal. It's one game at a time and it's nice to get this one."
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