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Benet Academy's Colin Bonnett drives the ball to the hoop during their game with Notre Dame College Prep on Friday, January 4, 2012, in Niles, IL. | Chandler West~For Sun-Times Media
At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Benet center Sean O’Mara is almost always the biggest guy on the court.
Teams try to do whatever they can to keep him in check and that’s usually get low and muscle him out of the paint.
No. 6 Notre Dame slowed the big man down early on in Friday night’s ESCC showdown in Niles limiting him to nine points in the first three quarters. But O’Mara had the last laugh, scoring seven points in a low-scoring fourth quarter to propel the No. 11 Redwings to a 42-41 come-from-behind victory.
“We know how everyone is going to play in this league,” said O’Mara who finished with 16 points and single-handedly outscored the Dons 7-5 in the fourth. “Everyone is going to want to come out and play football with me. It’s a battle of wills every time we get in the paint.”
Notre Dame (13-2, 1-1) had a chance to force overtime when senior guard Eddie Serrano (8 points) was fouled with .1 on the clock and the Dons trailing 42-40. When Serrano stepped to the line, Benet (15-3, 1-0) substituted a player and then called a timeout. Serrano made the first free throw but missed the second after another Redwings timeout.
Benet, which trailed 36-30 going into the fourth, was behind 40-36 when O’Mara (16 points) converted a field goal and then split a pair of free throws with 1:57. Pat McInerney (11 points) knocked down a shot for the Redwings with 47.3 seconds to play and split a pair of free throws with 22.8 seconds left to set up the dramatic finish.
“It begins and ends with our defense,” McInerney said. “In the first half we let (Notre Dame’s Matt) Mooney get open shots. But we got hands in their faces in the second half. I can’t say enough about Sean. He took over the game in the fourth.”
Mooney had 14 points for the Dons. Notre Dame led 27-17 at halftime, converting 12 of its 17 first half shots. In the second half, the Dons were 6-for-18 from the floor.
“Our energy wasn’t as good as it was in the first half,” Mooney said. “Our pressure on their guards wasn’t as good and the entry passes were easier for them.”