Benet Academy's boys basketball team came out on somewhat of a mission Saturday night.
Facing a St. Charles North team that handed them a 49-39 loss at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament in late December, the Redwings (17-4) relied on lockdown defense and timely offense during their convincing 44-31 nonconference victory in St. Charles.
"That's the last time we lost in our season so we came out with a chip on our shoulders," said senior guard David Buh, who poured in a game-high 16 points, including four 3-pointers. "We really wanted to prove how much we've improved over the course of the year. It was a big win tonight."
Benet, which extended its winning streak to 8, jumped all over the North Stars (13-10) at the outset, taking a 7-0 lead in the first 2 minutes before extending it to 19-2 midway through the second quarter.
Junior forward Will Engels (9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) and 6-foot-8 sophomore center Colin Crothers (9 points, 4 rebounds) accounted for the Redwings' first-quarter offense before back-to-back 3-point baskets by Buh highlighted Benet's 10-0 run in the first 4:28 of the second quarter.
"Our defensive effort early made a big difference for us," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "We struggled at times offensively in the first half but it was maybe masked a bit by the fact that we were playing good defense."
Buh's buzzer-beating 3-pointer propelled the Redwings to a 23-8 halftime bulge.
"That gave us a little bit more cushion," said Heidkamp. "It helped a lot because they (the North Stars) came right at us in the third quarter."
St. Charles North's offense sputtered throughout the opening half, especially from beyond the 3-point arc (0 for 7).
"The first half was probably our poorest performance of the season," said North Stars coach Tom Poulin. "Benet is a very good basketball team but we didn't do a whole lot right on either end, especially offensively."
Brendan Dal Degan's step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer pulled the North Stars within 33-22 but Buh buried a deep 3-pointer at the other end on the Redwings' first possession of the fourth quarter to make it 36-22.
"I thought David had some answers today that we really needed," said Heidkamp.
The North Stars got within 9 at 36-27 on Luke Scheffers' 15-foot jumper with 5 minutes left before Benet sealed it with 6 straight points from Ben Cooney (5 rebounds, 5 steals), Buh and Engels.
"Ben (Cooney) played so well defensively and was so poised with the ball," added Heidkamp. "It made a big difference for us."
Kyle King finished with 7 points and 8 rebounds for the North Stars, who shot 28 percent (13 of 47) from the field and a woeful 14 percent (3 of 22) from beyond the arc.
"They're a team that is difficult to beat but we expect more from our kids than we got tonight," said Poulin. "It's up to the coaches and the leaders to right the ship."