When the Benet boys basketball team raced to an early 12-point lead in Friday’s East Suburban Catholic Conference showdown with St. Patrick, it was hard to not think about last weekend’s troubles down the stretch.
Tough losses to St. Viator and Milwaukee Hamilton occurred when the Redwings couldn’t hang onto the lead late in the game.
The longer St. Patrick hung around, the more it looked like a repeat, especially with star center Sean O’Mara on the bench due to foul trouble. But this time, Benet pulled through.
A pair of three-pointers from Collin Pellettieri in the middle of the fourth quarter broke open a close game and gave Benet a 10-point lead en route to a 58-51 win.
“We’ll score enough points,” Benet senior Liam Nelligan said. “It really comes down to defense, as coach has been saying. We lost two tough ones last weekend because we couldn’t get some stops down the stretch, so getting some stops down the stretch made a difference.”
St. Patrick (12-6, 1-3) was ice cold at the outset, and Benet (12-6, 2-2) took advantage, taking a 16-4 lead after Nelligan’s pair of layups to open the second quarter. Benet held the Shamrocks to four points in the first quarter.
But St. Patrick closed it to 19-15 at the half with the help of a pair of Duncan White three-pointers. The Shamrocks caught fire from the outside in the third quarter to take a brief lead. They hit five threes in the third quarter, taking a 29-28 lead on a White three with 3:20 left in the quarter.
Meanwhile, when O’Mara wasn’t in foul trouble, the Shamrocks were making his life miserable with constant double and triple-teams in the post. O’Mara wound up with only seven points on four field goal attempts in the win, forcing others to step up in his stead.
“It definitely opens it up if they’re going to have two guys on Sean the whole time, and we’re a good passing team, but Sean definitely lets the game come to him,” Nelligan said. “He still had some big rebounds off of (missed) free throws. He’s still going to make a big difference no matter how many guys you put on him.”
After falling behind, Benet used a 9-2 run to take the lead for good, heading into the fourth up 39-35. But the game wasn’t over yet. The Shamrocks kept it within a couple of possessions before Pellettieri’s pair of threes pushed the lead to 53-43 with 3:50 left.
“We made some really good plays in crunch time,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “We were really unselfish in the fourth quarter. With Sean out of the game, he’d be the first to tell you, the guys stepped up and made plays. This is a good, gutty win. That’s a good team. We showed some real character in the fourth quarter.”
Nelligan led all scorers for Benet with 22 points. Pellettieri added 12 points and Colin Bonnett scored 10. O’Mara was limited to the seven points but had nine rebounds. Nicolas Coleman and White each scored 13 for St. Patrick, while Adrian Pierzchanowski added 11.