State's top-ranked team scores decisive victory against Bartlett
Benet hasn't taken a near perfect regular season for granted.
With a regional championship game against Bartlett awaiting Friday night, the Redwings knew their past success meant nothing.
Benet used its size and athleticism to dominate the glass on both ends to dismantle Bartlett in a convincing 62-38 victory to win the Class 4A Addison Trail regional title -- the team's 15th consecutive win since its only loss of the season on Dec 30.
Brady Kunka helped Benet (31-1) in outrebounding the Hawks 41-16, including a 22-7 advantage in a first half that saw the Redwings grow their lead to as much as 15 at halftime.
The 6-foot-3 senior was one of four Benet players with at least 6 rebounds and finished with 8 of his game-high 9 rebounds after the break.
"That's something that is a big part of this program," said Kunka, who also finished with a game-high 20 points. "We may not have the tallest guys out there, but we always have five guys on the court capable of crashing and getting rebounds. That was a big point of emphasis tonight, knowing we had a little bit of a size advantage tonight… Make sure we crash the offensive glass for second chances and finish every defensive possession by securing the rebounds."
A couple of buckets by Kunka aided a quick 10-5 spurt to start the second quarter, which pushed the Benet lead to double digits for the first time of the night. Bartlett (19-13) did not get back to a single-digit deficit after a Nikola Abusara basket at the 4:13 mark of the second quarter.
Abusara asserted his dominance on the offensive end with a number of creative shots through contact to finish the night with 16 points and 7 rebounds.
Both Kunka and Abusara had putback buckets in the final two minutes before halftime to help put a final stamp on a convincing first-half effort.
"That's a big part of what we emphasize and I think our team has been good at that all year," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "We absolutely have to get on the offensive glass because it's a big part of what we're trying to do. I was really pleased with the effort tonight and our ability to create second and third chance opportunities."
Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith thought his team put forth a valiant effort against the top-ranked team in Class 4A, especially on the defensive end in the first half.
With a number of weapons on that end, Wolfsmith knew his team couldn't relax for a minute or the Redwings would make them pay.
"It's really their discipline that kills you," Wolfsmith said. "You can play a perfect defensive possession and they continue to move the ball and find the next guy. If you take any sort of break and get flat-footed for a second, and don't box out, they're going to pound the glass and beat you that way.
"When you play a team that has five guys that can hurt you, you have to play such tenacious, focused defense just to get them to take a tough shot. Even if you do that, then you have to go get the rebound. It's such a hard group to play against and they're going to be an extremely difficult team for anyone to beat in these playoffs."
Bartlett did not have a player reach double-figure scoring but was led by Marty McCarthy's 9 points. Benet finished the night shooting 55 percent from the field, including a 6-for-12 team effort from beyond the 3-point line.
The Redwings will take on Lake Park at 7 p.m. Tuesday night in the Class 4A Bartlett sectional semifinals. Geneva and Wheaton Warrenville South make up the other semifinal on Wednesday, with the winners meeting for the sectional title on Friday.