Benet's Jack Euritt shoots a three near the end of the game over Curie's Joshua Stamps. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Sean O’Mara won the personal showdown. More impressively, he elevated his play when Benet most desperately required him to be a difference-maker.
In a match up of nationally-rated 6-9 junior big men, O’Mara scored the game-winning free throw with 12.5 seconds remaining as the Redwings stunned No. 9 Curie 37-36 by scoring the final six points in the Cyrus McGinnis Jump Ball Showcase at Notre Dame in Niles Sunday.
O’Mara shared game-high scoring totals of 13 with senior guard Eddie Eshoo and recorded eight rebounds and three assists for the Redwings (6-1). Curie star Cliff Alexander finished with six points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots for the Condors (0-2).
“That was my first time playing against Cliff,” O’Mara said. “He’s a big, strong and very physical player. He’s really something.”
O’Mara scored nine points in the second half, seven in the critical fourth quarter. “Offensively, we really struggled in the first half, but you have to credit Curie,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “They’re a great team, a great program, and when you have two 6-9 players fighting it out, it’s going to be difficult to score at times.”
The riveting fourth quarter featured four ties. Most impressively, Benet recovered from separate second half deficits of seven and six points.
O’Mara and Eshoo helped the Redwings storm back from a 36-31 deficit in the final two minutes. Eshoo hit three three-pointers in scoring a career-high 13 points. His only basket of the second half proved crucial, a three-pointer from the left wing with 1:48 remaining that pulled the Redwings within 36-34.
“My teammates showed a lot of faith in me, and I knew at that point, we needed scoring and time was running out on us,” Eshoo said.
O’Mara forced the final tie with 1:13 when he nailed two free throws with 1:13. He redeemed himself after he missed his first four free throws. “I still have to do a better job of shooting free throws,” he said.
Curie tried to play for a final shot but was called for a player control foul. O’Mara drove the baseline and was fouled going up underneath the basket. He split the two shots for Benet’s only second-half lead.
Curie had a final chance. Senior guard DeMarcus Richardson (seven points, four assists, two steals) drove the lane on a runner. Alexander coralled the rebound but his putback hit off the front of the rim at the buzzer. “I couldn’t really do a lot this game, because every time I touched the ball, they triple teammed me,” Alexander said.
Curie coach Mike Oliver said his team lacked the necessary discipline down the stretch. “We knew who their shooters were, and we left [Eshoo] wide open on that three-pointer and that was a big shot, and then we come down a shoot a quick three instead of trying to get the ball inside.
“We’re not disciplined enough right now,” he said. Senior guard Marcellus Davis scored 11 points for the Condors.
The victory capped a sterling week for the Redskins, who defeated previously undefeated and ranked York and also beat Ridgewood Friday behind O’Mara’s career-high 30 points.
“It was a good week,” Heidkamp said.