Sophomore Lauren Stack was part of another huge Benet girls basketball team celebration following a hard-fought victory over Fremd.
While Wednesday's game wasn't for the Class 4A championship like the games that ended the past two seasons, this one also was pretty memorable.
Stack scored the winning basket with eight seconds left for a 62-60 victory in the quarterfinals of the eighth annual Montini Christmas Tournament after the Redwings trailed 49-32 late in the third quarter.
"That was probably one of the worst starts we've had, but we never gave up." said Stack, who had team highs of 18 points and 7 rebounds.
"I was just really excited to play this game. It's like another faceoff of the championship from last year. I was just really excited to show how I've improved and what our team could do."
Benet (15-1) plays in tonight's 8:15 semifinal against Rolling Meadows (11-3), a 56-44 quarterfinal winner over previously undefeated Evanston (15-1). Fremd (10-3), which plays Evanston at 3 p.m., lost at Rolling Meadows 42-37 Nov. 29.
The Redwings had the final 6 points and outscored Fremd 23-8 in the fourth quarter. They won their second game this season after never leading until the final basket.
Stack scored as she drove across the lane guarded by Fremd senior and Harvard recruit Grace Tworek, who attempted a long last-second 3-pointer under pressure from Benet point guard Tsimba Malonga.
"(Our) kids, they've got hearts that are huge and they really battled their way back," Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. "Fremd did a great job. I told (Fremd coach Dave Yates) they deserved that win because I thought they outplayed us, but we've got a lot of weapons."
Malonga had 8 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter. Freshman Brooke Schramek had 8 points with two of the Redwings' seven 3s.
Fremd had four starters in double figures -- freshman Emily Kalczak with 16, Tworek with 15, senior Midori Williams with 13 and senior Missy Adrian with 10. Williams had 3 of the Vikings' five 3s.
The Vikings played arguably their best quarter of the season in leading 21-8 after eight minutes by hitting 8 of 11 shots with four 3s.
Kilbride used his depth to eventually find the right combinations for full-court pressure, double-teaming the ball and attacking Fremd's 2-1-2 zone defense. Fremd, meanwhile, used eight players and was minus two key reserves that limited its size.
"They're running eight, nine, 10 bodies at us," Yates said. "Give all the credit to Benet. They made the plays down the stretch, but I think we just ran out of gas. If it was a 29-minute game, we win."
Fremd led 33-25 at the half and, after Benet closed to within 5 points twice in the third quarter, went on a 14-2 run. Benet, however, opened the fourth quarter with a 14-5 run and Fremd only made 6 of 8 free throws after its only field goal of the period by Tworek with 5:36 left.
Ali Kramer's putback basket cut the deficit to 60-58. The Redwings then pressed at center court with three players and senior Emma Lyne stole the ball and scored to tie.
Benet regained possession with 17.8 seconds left after forcing a five-second inbounds violation.
"It was funny. On the bench I was like, 'Guys, let's get a steal.' Tsimba did a great job of staying with her. She didn't see me coming and ended up losing the ball," Lyne said. "The whole vibe on the bench -- none of us were giving up."
In last season's 4A final Benet beat Fremd 42-39 after trailing 35-31 with 5:02 left. Only three starters return from that game -- Tworek and Benet seniors Katie Jaseckas and Kendal Schramek.
"What's a takeaway (from today)? We're pretty darn good. (And) we only return one starter," Yates said. "The final result is not the result we wanted, but they're a really good team and we were giving it to them for the bulk of the game."
Schramek fouled out Wednesday with 5 points and Jaseckas had 4 points. Stack and Lyne were among Benet reserves who also played in last year's final.
"(This game) reminded me of all of the things the seniors had taught us, how they handled things in the final minutes of a close game," Lyne said. "Those little things that we did in the championship game last year came back. It's all fundamentals and you've just got to stay focused."