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Benet's Jack Euritt shoots a three near the end of the game over Curie's Joshua Stamps. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Hours after Benet pulled off an upset of previously undefeated York on Nov. 27, Redwings junior center Sean O’Mara took to Twitter and made an honest critique of himself.
“Need to be extremely effective from the charity stripe in order to be a dominant center. Always have something to improve on,” the 6-foot-9, 240-pound O’Mara tweeted shortly after scoring 14 points and securing five rebounds in the Redwings’ 49-44 victory.
With Benet and city power Curie tied at 36-36 in the waning seconds last Sunday in the Cyrus McGinnis Jump Ball Showcase, O’Mara stepped to the free-throw line with 12.5 seconds remaining — looking to make good on his vow made five days earlier.
Sinking a free throw, O’Mara provided the Redwings their winning margin of 37-36 in upsetting Curie. O’Mara scored 13 points while pulling down eight rebounds and holding junior center Cliff Alexander to six points.
Off to a 6-1 start and responding after its 57-54 overtime loss to Naperville Central on Nov. 23 with three straight wins, Benet made its debut at No. 8 this week in the Sun-Times’ Super 25.
Coming into the year having won 76 of its last 88 games, the Redwings have continued to build off what has been a great three-year run under coach Gene Heidkamp, now in his fifth year. The 2009-10 squad won 26 games and a sectional title, following that with 29 wins in 2010-11 and 21 victories last year.
Putting the program’s three-year success story in perspective isn’t easy, but the only connection to that time frame, aside from Heidkamp, senior forward Pat McInerney can try.
McInerney saw time as a freshman when Benet won the 2010 Class 4A Neuqua Valley Sectional before losing to eventual Class 4A state champion Simeon and started alongside David Sobolewski and Frank Kaminsky on a team that rose to the top of the state’s rankings amidst the 29-game winning streak to start its season before losing to Ryan Boatright and East Aurora.
With games against Naperville Central, York and Curie already behind them, the schedule won’t let up for the Redwings as they will once again play in the Proviso West Tournament during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Then the Redwings tackle East Suburban Catholic Conference foes including Marist, Marian Catholic and Notre Dame while also facing West Aurora at Batavia’s Night of Hoops in February.
“Coach (Heidkamp) has told us multiple times that this is, in my four years, this is the toughest schedule we’ve had and I believe that,” McInerney said. “I mean, we play so many really good teams, really athletic teams. York was a great shooting team. Naperville Central, obviously, shot the lights out, too.
“But it’s all about the state tournament. That’s when you really make your money. We get a regional here and that’s awesome and when you play teams like Curie and Naperville Central and the Proviso West Tournament, you get ready for the state tournament.”
With the memory of blowing a nine-point lead to Naperville Central still fresh in their minds, Benet rebounded from a slow start last Friday against Ridgewood to win comfortably as O’Mara tied his career high with a 30-point night against the Rebels.
McInerney, who recorded a double-double against Ridgewood, mentioned how pleased he was with how the young guys that are surrounding him, O’Mara and senior Jack Euritt have responded early in the season — especially with O’Mara, Euritt, Jack Toner and Jack Beneventi all still rounding into shape after the Redwings’ football team’s run to the state semifinals.
With Benet having nine days off between its win over Curie and its first game against host Plainfield North in the Plainfield North Tournament on Tuesday, practice has probably been the best thing for them throughout this week.
“We got some kids that are just getting some experience now. We have some kids who have a ton of experience and some kids that don’t have much experience playing for us,” Heidkamp said. “So the only way you get them better is get them out there and they got to go through some growing pains. Hopefully we’re gonna be able to do that and get better through the course of the year.
“We also need to practice. We’ve still barely practiced, just based on the situation with things that happened in the preseason with football and everything else. So I think the thing is we gotta a lot of work to do, but we have the potential to be a solid team.”