Deceivingly quick is how Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer describes the Benet basketball team.
At Friday night's Class 4A regional final at Addison Trail, the Redwings flashed their quickness, especially in the second half of their 62-49 defeat of Naperville Central. Benet used quick cuts to the basket and quick moves to loose balls and rebounds, and in the end it survived a great start by the Redhawks and quickly turned the game around in its favor.
"They're deceivingly quicker than you think they are," said Kramer, whose team led 18-11 after a strong start. "I think that caught us off guard a little bit. We handled them in the first half and then they really came out and attacked us in the second half. I think we were maybe shell-shocked for about two or three minutes."
The Redwings -- who have won six regional crowns in nine years and will take a 16-game winning streak into Tuesday's sectional semifinal against Bartlett -- closed the gap to 25-23 at the half and then blitzed Naperville Central (20-10) with a 16-6 third quarter to take control.
Redwings senior David Buh was one of several players to come up big in the second half. Buh tallied 14 of his game-high 16 points in the second half.
"I just wanted to be aggressive to get us off to a good start to the second half, because I knew as a team we needed a very good second half to beat a great team," said Buh, who scored 8 points in the third quarter. "Naperville Central really took it to us in the first half. And we realized we had to kind of come out in the second half and try and control the game. We're just very happy we were able to do so."
Tyler O'Brien and Dillon Kane combined for a trio of 3-pointers and the seventh-seeded Redhawks also made 7 of 8 free throws while building that 18-11 first-quarter lead. But Benet regrouped from the slow start to improve to 25-4 on the year.
"We weren't ready to guard at the beginning of the game and that was a huge issue," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "The last three quarters we defended. In the middle quarters I thought we really got better defensively."
While the defense was picking up, so too was a balanced offense that saw three players score in double figures. Jacob Petrovic paced the Redwings in the first half with three 3s on his way to 14 points. Buh and Will Engels caught fire in the second half to combine for 24 of their 28 points over the final two quarters.
"That was probably our worst quarter of defense all year," Engels said of the team's slow start. "But in the second quarter we held them to 7 points and from then on in we just dug in. We knew that no matter what happened on offense our defense could take care of the game."
Center Colin Crothers was in foul trouble much of the evening battling Redhawks center Ben Wolf, who finished with 12 points. But the Redwings got a big boost from reserves Noah Ferrell and Shane O'Mara, who each scored 7 points and helped contain Wolf.
O'Brien and Wolf each tallied 12 points to lead a Redhawks team that will graduate eight players, including four starters.
"The seniors -- Dillon Kane, Tyler O'Brien, Ben Wolf, Nick Baskin, Daniel Raab, Kevin Maloney, Kurt Kozarits and Thomas Dah -- these eight guys were a class act," Kramer said of the leaders for a team that won two tourney titles and 20 games. "They were so coachable. I'm extremely proud of all of them. This is tough to take, but Benet did a nice job. There's a reason they've only got four losses."