Plainfield East must have felt like it awoke a sleeping giant.
Leading 18-10 after eight minutes, the Bengals could only watch and wonder as Benet scored the first 11 points of the second quarter as part of a 26-8 blitz that propelled the Redwings to a 59-48 victory at the Class 4A sectional Thursday at East Aurora.
By winning its third consecutive sectional title, two-time defending state champion Benet (28-4) advanced to Monday's supersectional at Illinois Wesleyan University against No. 3-ranked Edwardsville (30-0), a 48-46 winner over Rock Island.
Benet's Brooke Schramek started the second-quarter barrage Thursday with a 3-pointer from left of the key. She scored again 18 seconds later after the Redwings forced a five-second violation, and Benet was off to the races.
"I think we just realized that if we lose, we're done and the seniors are gone," Brooke Schramek said. "I think we really motivated each other. Our energy was crazy good, we were cutting harder, our passes were stronger and we were looking for each other a lot more.
"Once we got that first basket, we just kept pushing and we knew this was our game," the 6-foot-1 freshman added.
Benet's pressure defense also kept Plainfield East from advancing the ball past midcourt for nearly three minutes. By the time the Bengals finally scored, Benet had built a 21-18 lead that the Redwings extended to 36-26 on a Brooke Schramek free throw with 6.9 seconds remaining in the half.
"We just really locked down defensively and we started moving the ball more," said Benet sophomore Clara Prasse. "We just really got into the game and played with heart. I think that's what brought us back. We have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent on our team. It just all works well together."
Trailing 48-37 with 1:37 remaining in the third quarter, Plainfield East (25-8) used a 9-2 run to get within 50-46 on an Ashley Smoldt's two free throws with just under five minutes left to play.
But Emma Lyne split a pair of free throws, Prasse tipped in her own miss, and Tsimba Malonga scored on a baseline drive and added a free throw as Benet extended the lead to 10 points with a minute remaining.
"Their pressure in the second quarter (was the difference)," Plainfield East coach Tony Waznonis said. "We knew what they had. It was more mental, and when we did break the press, we were missing layups and shots we were making in the first quarter. We were never able to stop that run."
Olivia Jenkins scored 16 points and Lotanna Onua added 13 points for Plainfield East. Prasse led Benet with 18 points, Malonga had 14, Brooke Schramek added 10 points and Katie Jaseckas stuffed the stat sheet with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists.
"These girls are phenomenal," Jaseckas said. "They work hard every single day, they practice hard and they're ready to go. We know there's a lot at stake Monday, but we're really excited. We're going to work our hardest and come out strong."