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Pat McInerney has been cast in a secondary role at Benet by playing alongside stars like David Sobolewski, Frank Kaminsky and now 6-9 junior center Sean O’Mara.
He also justifies the faith his coach Gene Heidkamp showed in elevating him to the varsity halfway through his freshman year three years ago. He is a glue player every great team needs.
The 6-5 senior forward scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds as No. 12 Benet used a commanding 17-0 second half run to subdue Morton 63-49 in a Proviso West Holiday tournament second-round game Thursday in Hillside.
The victory marked the 100th of Heidkamp’s career.
In a rematch from last year, Benet advances to play defending tournament champion and No. 5 Proviso East in the quarterfinals Friday.
“For me, I don’t really care what my role on the team is as long as we win,” McInerney said. Despite playing with a fever from complications of a food poisoning bout he suffered on Christmas, McInerney shot 11-for-14 from the field and grabbed four offensive rebounds.
He scored six points in the decisive fourth quarter as Benet (12-2) shut out the Mustangs (8-2) for the opening 5:34 of the fourth quarter en route to scoring the first 16 points. McInerney’s free throw gave the Redwings a 45-42 lead after three quarters.
O’Mara scored nine of his 11 points in the second half. He added 13 rebounds and six assists as his continually passed out of the high post to create opportunities for McInerney and the Redwings’ perimeter shooters.
“Sean is one of the best passing players I’ve ever played with, especially out of the post,” McInerney said. “It’s pretty easy to score when all you’re doing is shooting layups.”
Unheralded senior guard Robert Haemmerle infused the Redwings (12-2) with some surprisingly effective scoring off the bench. He made four three-pointers in marking his own career total of 12 points. He drilled two consecutive three-pointers as Benet ended the second quarter with a 9-0 run to wipe out a seven-point Morton advantage for a 31-29 halftime lead.
“Eddie Eshoo has been really big for us this year and really stepped up his game offensively, and I wanted to do the same thing,” Haemmerle said.
“I just wanted to make the most of my opportunities. They were playing a 2-3 zone and collapsing on Sean, and he did a great job of moving the ball and finding the open shooters,” he said.
Junior point guard Greg Carter continued to impress for the Mustangs. He scored 12 of his 20 points in the first half. His three-pointer gave the Mustangs their largest lead at 29-22. Senior forward Waller Perez contributed 14 points and seven rebounds. His younger brother, 6-5 sophomore Weisher Perez, was limited to just one point before fouling out.
“Losing Weisher changed the game, because I knew we couldn’t guard the big kid [O’Mara] so we had to play zone,” Morton coach Tony Martinucci said.
“They’re very well coached. When we had to go man in the fourth quarter, the big kid just killed us.”