Winning 14 straight boys basketball games isn't easy.
At times on Friday, it must have felt impossible for Benet.
Despite the many struggles the Redwings still managed to enter the postseason with its momentum intact, holding off Carmel 40-36 in East Suburban Catholic Conference action in Lisle.
As usual, Benet (23-4, 8-1) leaned on its defense. The Redwings held Carmel (17-11, 4-5) to three free throws in the final four minutes while creating just enough offense to keep their distance.
Benet, seeded second in the Class 4A Glenbard East sectional, now needs to keep the streak going at the most crucial time of the season.
"We knew it'd be a hard challenge to finish out the regular season, but I think we stuck it out," said Redwings senior David Buh, who led his team with 12 points. "As a team collectively we're just really happy to be going into the playoffs playing what we think is our best basketball."
Carmel didn't trail until Benet's Will Engels opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play to finally put the Redwings ahead 28-25. Buckets by Buh and Noah Ferrell boosted the advantage to 32-25 during a run that cost Corsairs starters Johnny Roeser and Jalen Snell their fourth fouls. Both ended up fouling out.
Carmel found a way to rally quickly. Freshman Kimahri Wilson scored, followed by a 3-pointer by Evan Myers and a three-point play from Zion Kilpatrick that gave the Corsairs a 33-32 lead with 4:23 left.
That's when Benet turned up the heat defensively.
"It was tough," said Myers, who paced Carmel with 11 points. "But I thought we did a really good job defensively, too. So I think we played well."
A Petrovic 3-pointer and Colin Crothers layup pushed Benet to a 37-33 lead. The Corsairs had numerous chances to respond but were stymied by turnovers, missed shots and even a charge taken by Engels.
"We're obviously upset we didn't win, but we feel like we can build off this going into the playoffs," said Carmel coach Zack Ryan, whose team is seeded third in the Class 3A North Chicago sectional. "I think we gave them everything they could handle. Hat's off to them. They executed a little better down the stretch."
Benet won despite making 4 of 11 free-throw attempts, including six straight misses at one point in the final two minutes.
Ferrell had 7 points and 8 rebounds off the bench while Petrovic and Crothers each had 6 points. Wilson scored 10 points for Carmel, with Kilpatrick and Roeser adding 6 points.
"We won the game defensively in the last minute and a half," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp. "We had multiple opportunities to close it out and we couldn't convert at the free-throw line. But I told the guys after the game, they kept guarding and they kept defending. That was the difference in the game."
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