Boys Basketball: Benet holds off St JosephBenet Academy's Griffin Hanekamp (21) is tripped up by St. Joseph's Kerrim Simmons (35) in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27, 2011, in Hillside. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 27, 2011 11:18PM
Last year’s Benet team was one for the ages, but Sean O’Mara is ready to make his imprint on this year’s club.
“We worked very hard over the summer, and we came in with the expectation of being just as good this year as last year,” O’Mara said.
The 6-9 sophomore used the showcase of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament to make his case as an emerging star. He scored 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots to lead the defending tournament champions over St. Joseph 53-49 in a first-round game Tuesday night in Hillside.
Benet advances to play No. 2 and tournament favorite Proviso East in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
O’Mara scored 17 points in the second half after he had to sit most of the second quarter after picking up two fouls. “We dodged a bullet there,” Benet coach Gene Heidcamp said.
Benet guard John Enochs hit three three-pointers in scoring all nine of his points in the first half.
The Redwings (11-1) converted six three-pointers in the first half in building a 27-21 lead at the break. “They really backed me up when I was out of the game,” O’Mara said.
St. Joseph (4-5) mounted several second-half runs to make the game interesting. Behind the play of forwards Reggie Johnson (17 points) and Karriem Simmons (11 points, five rebounds), St. Joseph mounted a 10-2 run to narrow an 11-point third quarter deficit to 34-31.
O’Mara, who shot 9-of-17 from the field, converted two free throws for some breathing space. In the pivotal fourth quarter, he scored nine points to repel every St. Joseph thrust. The Redwings held on despite making just 2-8 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Forward Griffin Hanekamp (10 points) and guard Joe Schuessler drilled crucial three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Benet shot 8-of-16 on three-pointers.
“We showed a lot of resiliency out there tonight,” Heidcamp said. “Even when we made some mistakes and turned the ball over, we continued to battle and I was very pleased with that tonight.
“We didn’t talk too much about last year with this group beforehand because I didn’t know what the expectations were. It’s not always pretty but it’s been effective.”