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Failing to convert a pair of easy baskets early on against Thornton-Fractional North may have appeared innocent enough for Benet junior center Sean O’Mara.
But it served as a microcosm of the game-long struggles he and the rest of his teammates experienced against the Meteors on Wednesday at the Plainfield North Holiday Tournament.
Doing a nice job of denying O’Mara the ball constantly and making life tough on the Redwings’ 6-9 big man, the Meteors pulled out a 39-34 upset victory over the sixth-ranked Redwings.
“At the end of the day, I think our defense was tenacious. Our goal was to let (O’Mara) get his, but we were going to lock everybody else down,” Thornton-Fractional North coach Tim Bankston said. “I think we accomplished that goal.”
The Meteors’ defense did just that as O’Mara was the lone Redwing to finish in double figures with a game-high 14 points to go along with tying senior forward Pat McInerney, who was held to just five points, with a team-high eight rebounds.
Taking a lead as large as five points after an O’Mara basket with under 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Benet (7-2) never trailed in the first half.
But it was the response T.F. North (6-1) put together after Redwings’ junior guard Collin Pellettieri put his team up 16-12 with a three-pointer with just over five minutes left in the first half.
From there, the Meteors ended the half on a modest 6-2 run to go into halftime tied 18-18.
Taking its first lead of the game at 20-18 with 4:49 left in the third, courtesy of a basket from senior forward Nicolas Wood, who contributed 13 points, T.F. North came out of the locker room ready to pounce.
Sustaining their momentum by scoring 10 of the first 13 points in the third, the Meteors took a 28-21 lead after senior guard Greg McClain converted a three-point play with 1:56 left in the third.
“It was huge. We wanted to come out and play hard,” said McClain, who tied O’Mara for game-high scoring honors with 14 points. “We wanted to make it close (near halftime) because we know we would get that push in the third quarter that would put us over the top and we would control the game from there.”
Losing for the first time since Nov. 23 against Naperville Central in the midst of scoring a season-low 34 points, the free-throw line was the Redwings’ biggest culprit as much as the struggles of their offense were.
Benet missed 12 of its 22 free-throw attempts for the game, which certainly made things all the more tougher given the way the Meteors played defensively.
“I think we just didn’t play well as a team collectively. I think that’s (evident when you score 34 points). I think you can make whatever microcosms that you want. The fact of it is that we didn’t play well on either end,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “We got out-competed from start to finish.
“Their team competed at a higher level than we did. We played very frustrated all game. Obviously didn’t play well on either end of the floor. When you play a good team and you get out-competed and you don’t play well, then obviously you’re gonna get what you end up getting. Obviously that speaks for itself (Wednesday).”