Benet cruises past Joliet West into Pontiac semifinals

By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/29/2021 9:57 PM

PONTIAC -- There would be no second slipper for Joliet West Wednesday night.

One day after stunning fourth-seeded Bloom at the iconic Pontiac Holiday Tournament, Benet had no interest in allowing the upstart Tigers' boys basketball team a second consecutive upset.


The Redwings were uncharitable on defense and ran their half-court sets on offense with precision to cruise into the semifinals with a 66-37 victory.

Benet (8-1) concocted a rematch of the 2016 Class 4A state championship game as undefeated and top-seeded Curie (14-0) awaits in the second semifinal on Thursday.

The traditional Public League power needed a late run to deny a determined St. Charles North crew, 63-54, in the third quarterfinal.

Benet was far less than stellar from the perimeter.

But they quickly adopted a sinister alternative.

"If you're not hitting your shots, go to the basket," said Benet senior post Kyle Thomas.

"I like attacking the rim and beating my man off the dribble," added the Redwings' Brady Kunka.

The Benet twosome was dynamic in the paint all night.

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Kunka lived up to his advanced billing by repeatedly slashing to the rim, scoring a game-high 18 points in the process.

Thomas, despite sitting out considerable minutes in the first half with a second foul, also tormented the Tigers in the interior with 7 of his 9 field goals.

Thomas showed touch with his midrange game before exploiting his size advantage in the paint.

"Everything starts on the inside," said Thomas, the 6-foot-9 center who transferred from the now-shuttered St. Joseph, the school legendary coach Gene Pingatore made famous.

Thomas augmented the game-high Kunka total with 16 points of his own.

The Tigers' Jeremiah Fears, a celebrated freshman from a famous basketball family, was the only player to score for Joliet West over the first 11 minutes and 15 seconds of the game.

As a result, Benet led 20-6 after the first quarter and trebled the lead to 27-9 before the Tigers finally had a second player connect from the field.

"We executed the game plan really well," Kunka said. "We got a lot of shots in transition."


"That may have been our best half offensively," said Benet coach Gene Heidkamp on the Redwings' dominant second-half performance to close out the one-sided game. "I thought our defense was good. They're a high-powered team."

"Benet is always very well-coached," said Joliet West coach Jeremy Kreiger. "They space the floor and shoot very well. They are very unselfish."

Benet shot 57 percent from the field by connecting on 27 of its 47 shots.

Brennan White was the third Benet player in double figures with 13 points.

Fears led Joliet West (4-6) with 15 points.

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