Benet has been known for its slow starts this season. Thursday night it started like a two-time defending state champion.
The Redwings (26-4) scored the game's first 16 points, then put the game out of reach late in a 71-52 victory against Lemont in the Class 4A Benet girls basketball regional final.
"We came out really well, which we've been struggling with," Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. "We've battled slow starts. I thought we had a really good start, then we kind of got stuck. We were on 28 (points) for what seemed like an eternity, just kind of a little loose with the ball. I don't know if we got complacent because of the lead."
Tsimba Malonga and Kendal Schramek keyed the Redwings' good start, combining for 18 first-quarter points by getting to the basket, often after forcing a Lemont turnover. The Redwings led 24-8 after the first eight minutes, 31-14 at halftime.
"We just came out with a lot of energy," Malonga said. "Our focus was our press. Our trapping was really good, very sharp in the first."
The Redwings forced 13 of Lemont's 34 turnovers in the first quarter.
"Going into the game we knew the first few minutes were going to be important, and really Benet's run-and-jump style of press is something we haven't seen all year," Lemont coach Tracey Rainey added. "To try to simulate it in practice just doesn't do it justice."
Junior Sarah Knoepfle led Lemont with 17 points. Junior Emma Bozue added 13 points, all in the third quarter, when Lemont committed just 4 turnovers to cut the lead as low as 11 points.
"The way that we came back was kind of a testament to what we've done all year. That's the kind of girls that we have," Rainey said.
"You've got to come to play," Kilbride added. "There's hardware at stake. Everyone wants to advance. You're going to get everybody's best shot, that's for sure."
Entering the fourth quarter with a 15-point lead, Katie Jaseckas made it 20 with 4:28 to go. The margin was 24 points with three minutes left when the coaches started emptying their benches.
Malonga scored a game-high 22 points, with 5 assists and 4 steals. Schramek finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds, Jaseckas added 14 points and Brooke Schramek scored 10 off the bench.
"Tsimba was really good," Kilbride said. "They didn't really have a way to guard Katie. She got in a little bit of foul trouble. I thought Kendal was in beast mode tonight. She was just flying all over. ... When Tsimba and Kendal play like that, we've got a chance to be really good."
The No. 1-seeded Redwings will play No. 4 Yorkville at 6 p.m. Tuesday in an East Aurora sectional semifinal.
"We're not satisfied," Malonga said. "We know we have a lot more to do, a lot more to improve. We're just hungry just to get better."
Lemont ended the season 19-9.
"Our three seniors, captains, phenomenal job all season long," Rainey said. "Shannon O'Donnell, she kind of was our constant. Paige Terrazas was a defensive asset all year long, on the boards all season. Quinn Shereck, same thing, her tenacity on the court that if she's not on there we don't have."