Collapsing on Benet center Sean O'Mara like hounds on a grizzly, Glenbard North was forcing the Redwings to win from the perimeter.
It was a perimeter shot from senior guard Collin Pellettieri plus clutch late defense that clinched Benet's 62-59 victory Tuesday for the Redwings' first downstate berth since 1983.
Pellettieri let fly from the deep right wing and hit nothing but net with 25.5 seconds remaining in the Class 4A Hinsdale Central supersectional to give the Redwings a 1-point lead.
"I knew we were down 2 so I knew we needed a big shot," Pellettieri said of his eighth 3-pointer, which gave him a game-high 26 points, O'Mara adding 22. "Time was ticking away, so a 3 was big enough to give us a 1-point lead."
Following the lead of Benet's Colin Bonnett, whose block on a Glenbard North 3-pointer preceded a Panthers turnover and then two missed free throws with 39.4 seconds left, O'Mara also blocked a 3-point attempt. Benet's Liam Nelligan grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and made two free throws with 3.7 seconds left for the final margin.
Chip Flanigan's running one-hander from 33 feet, Glenbard North's last gasp, banked off.
"Tonight we got the stop and it was the difference in the game," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "As much as the shot was huge -- obviously that gave us the lead -- but we had to stop them twice and we did. That's what I'm proudest about in the last minute or so."
The Redwings erased a 7-point deficit with 3:40 to play and denied Glenbard North its first downstate trip since 2002. Benet (24-7) advances to Friday's 8:15 p.m. semifinal in Peoria against Edwardsville, a 65-60 winner over Marian Catholic in overtime.
"They closed out on our shooters there. I thought we had an open shot," said Glenbard North coach Joe Larson, whose Panthers finished 24-6. "And we turned the ball over a couple times there, that was crucial, end of the ballgame. Obviously, end of the game there you turn the ball over it's going to cost you against a good team. That's what happened tonight."
Heidkamp credited Larson with "an unbelievable job" devising offensive and defensive plans. With Benet's Liam Nelligan guarding Glenbard North forward Chip Flanigan, it left the 6-9 O'Mara guarding one of the Panthers's four guards on the floor, like quick 6-1 point man Justin Jackson.
"We tried to just attack them, attack them, attack them," said Flanigan, who survived three first-half fouls to score a team-high 19 points.
"Basically, everyone got to the basket and we finished strong throughout the game."
Defensively, the Panthers' 1-2-2 zone limited O'Mara to 9 points in a first half in which Benet rallied to lead 24-23.
"The more we limited that during the ballgame the better off we were going to be," Larson said of O'Mara's touches.
Benet needed two rallies to pull off the win. A 3 by the Panthers' Kendall Holbert capped a 14-3 run for a 41-34 lead with 1:55 left in the third quarter. Pellettieri hit a bomb and O'Mara made two free throws to trim the deficit to 43-39 entering the fourth.
Glenbard North sprang to a 6-point lead in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter and increased it to 55-48 with 3:40 to play on a 3 and two free throws from Pasquale Fiduccia.
O'Mara shook off frustration like a captain should.
"I just brought (his teammates) in and said, 'This is what we've worked for, just give us some excellence in this fourth quarter,'" he said.
The Xavier recruit worked the low block for a foul and two free throws, an inside basket and another score on a putback to pull within 56-54 with 2:16 to play.
The teams traded 3-pointers by Fiduccia and Pellettieri to set up the critical series of Benet blocks and the Pellettieri capper as the Redwings surged to the win.
"To get here and get to this point right now it's the greatest feeling I've ever had being a part of Benet and being a Redwing," O'Mara said.