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Benet's Jack Toner puts up a shot against the Marian Catholic defense during their game at Benet on Thursday, January 17, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Benet senior Pat McInerney did not follow orders in the final seconds on Thursday in Lisle, but Benet coach Gene Heidkamp didn’t seem to mind.
McInerney’s free throw with 1.8 seconds to play gave the No. 7 Redwings a hard-won 51-50 win over No. 4 Marian Catholic, in a game that it seemed would go to whichever team had the ball last.
McInerney missed the last free throw on purpose, in a successful attempt to keep the ball out of the hands of Marian Catholic star Tyler Ulis.
“Yeah, I missed on purpose,” McInerney said. “I looked at [Heidkamp] and asked if I should miss on purpose. He said no. But I kind of did it anyway.”
The ball clanged off the front of the rim and right into the hands of a Benet player, sealing the win.
“That wasn’t necessarily the plan,” Heidkamp said. “But I think he may have done it on purpose.”
The decision held a lot of importance. Ulis was nearly unstoppable in the fourth quarter. When Benet grabbed a four point lead with 29 seconds to play, Ulis responded by immediately converting a four-point play to tie the game.
“Ulis is an amazing player,” McInerney said. “I can’t even say enough about him. We could have folded after he hit the three and one play. I’m really proud of them.”
On the final possession, McInerney drove the lane and confidently pulled up for a jumper. He was fouled, setting up his heroics at the line.
“I had a one dribble pull up and felt him behind me,” McInerney said. “I’m glad I got fouled because I don’t think it was going to go in.”
McInerney finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Spartans (16-2, 2-1 East Suburban Catholic) had no answer for the size of 6-9 Sean O’Mara, who scored 19 and grabbed eight rebounds.
“We knew what O’Mara was and that we didn’t have a way to really stop him,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. “And they couldn’t handle Tyler. That game was going to come down to who had the last possession.’’
Ulis finished with 25 points, shooting 9-for-14 from the field. Terrone Parham added 11 points for Marian Catholic.
The Redwings (18-3, 4-0) remain undefeated in one of the state’s best conferences. They have beaten some of the area’s top players, including York’s David Cohn and Curie’s Cliff Alexander, but Heidkamp was especially impressed with Ulis.
“[Ulis] is an unbelievable player,” Heidkamp said. “That’s as a good a guy as we’ve played against in a long time.”