Boys Basketball: Benet, Naperville Central highlight Hoops Showdown

Updated: April 24, 2012 6:37PM



Since taking over the Benet boys basketball program at the start of the 2008-09 season, Gene Heidkamp has routinely constructed a tough schedule that has prepared his team for the rigors of East Suburban Catholic Conference play and the state tournament.

Winners of 76 of its last 88 games entering the start of the 2012-13 season come November, Benet will once again be challenging itself as it looks to try and reclaim its place atop the ESCC standings and aim to make a longer state tournament run than it did this past season.

Falling 45-44 to Metea Valley in the Class 4A Metea Valley Regional Final on March 2, the Redwings’ quest for a third ESCC crown in four years and third regional title in four years begins with a frontline headed by senior-to-be Pat McInerney and junior-to-be Sean O’Mara.

On Monday, the organizers of the 16th Annual National Guard High School Hoops Showdown officially released the three matchups that will take place on Jan. 26, 2013 at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

Benet, which took part in the event two years ago when it defeated Glenbard East 75-51 behind 22 points from Pat Boyle and 17 from McInerney, will meet Naperville Central at approximately 6:30 p.m. in the second game of the evening.

“I think obviously we have great respect for their program and obviously they’re very well-coached and they’ve got great young talent,” Heidkamp said. “We know they’re gonna be an excellent team next year, so the way we look at is obviously it’s an opportunity to play against an excellent team. Obviously, that’s something we try to do — play a very competitive schedule and playing a team like Naperville Central certainly adds to that.”

Headlining the first meeting between Heidkamp and his Naperville Central counterpart, Pete Kramer, certainly will be the matchup between O’Mara and Redhawks’ junior-to-be center Nick Czarnowski in the post.

Both named Naperville Sun All-Area selections for the 2011-12 season, both O’Mara and Czarnowski had solid sophomore campaigns.

The 6-9 O’Mara, a first-team pick, averaged 15.1 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Redwings, who finished the year 21-7, while the 6-8 Czarnowski, a second-team selection, battled through some injuries to post 14.1 points and 6.2 rebounds for Naperville Central, which concluded the year at 15-12 after starting the year 9-3.

“It’s part of the draw,” Heidkamp said of the matchup between Czarnowski and O’Mara. “But it’s gonna be really about Naperville Central and Benet. As much as both of those players mean an awful lot to our teams, I think it’s gonna be about a lot more than just the individual matchup there. The player that’s probably gonna have the most impact on the game is the one whose team wins, whether that measures out in the stat line or not.

“I think Sean understands that. He understands that really the goal is to go out and play well against an excellent team and not get so caught up in his individual matchup with Nick. I think it’s really about two good teams playing against each other and that’s really the way it should be.”

Naperville Central and Benet haven’t met since Feb. 28, 2006 when the Redhawks defeated the Redwings, 35-33, in a 2006 Class AA Naperville North Regional Semifinal.

“Yeah, I think it would be an exciting event and I have a lot of respect for Gene and I’ve known him for a while,” Kramer said. “He does a good job and I just think it’ll be a lot of fun. And if Czar’s healthy, I think it’ll be a great matchup between the two big guys. Hopefully by that time, we’re both having pretty good years, too. But you can’t anticipate that yet.”

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