Friday, January 18, 2013

Benet upset Marian Catholic...

...last night, 51-50, in a contest that more than lived up to the pre-game hype. (You can read all about it in the Trib and the Sun-Times.)

Not only did Benet center Sean O'Mara (No. 45, above) and Marian point guard Tyler Ulis (No. 3) dazzle the packed house in Lisle, but Wings Pat McInerney (No. 32) and Eddie Eshoo contributed significantly as well. From the article in the Trib:

Sean O'Mara, 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks
Pat McInerney, 21 points, 10 rebounds
Eddie Eshoo, 9 points, 3 3-pointers

Tyler Ulis, 25 points, 4 3-pointers, 3 assists
Terrone Parham, 11 points, 6 rebounds

Although the home team Redwings jumped out to an early seven-point lead, the Spartans led the contest at halftime, 22-18. But Benet came roaring out of the locker room to take a four-point lead with only 29 seconds remaining in the game. The raucous crowd -- which had the best student section I've seen so far this year -- understandably went nuts. The guy next to me even stood up and put his jacket on to leave. But, then, in a play that should have surprised no one in the gym, Marian's Ulis dribbled down the court, drained a nifty three-pointer (this kid can shoot!) and the following free throw to tie the game at 50. (It was then that I told the guy next to me, "You may want to take off your coat and sit down; we're going into OT!")

But I was wrong.

McInerney, who had left the game earlier with a bloody nose, made the game-winning free throw with about 1.8 seconds left to seal the deal for Benet. It was a thrilling finish to a great game and well-worth the four bucks I spent to get in (and the long drive). By the way, the woman selling tickets didn't ask me if I was a senior; does that mean I'm getting younger-looking?

As I mentioned, it was a great game and my only regret is that I hadn't seen either team play before. Ulis and O'Mara are definitely the Real Deal.

While Ulis is small, he's also "dead-on," as my late father used to say, from the field as well as the line. (After one of his many nothing-but-net free throws, the guy next to me said under his breath, "At least hit the rim once in a while!") And the 5'10" (really?) junior isn't afraid to drive to the basket either.

As for O'Mara, the 6'9", 240-pound junior is huge (and plays left tackle, I was told, on the resurgent Benet football team). I can't believe I missed the 37-36 victory over Curie, in which O'Mara went up against the equally large (6'9", 240 lbs.) Cliff Alexander. (I also missed the 42-41 win over Notre Dame, which was practically in my back yard. Shame on me!)

Oh, well, the 2012-13 season is still in diapers. If you missed last night's game, you can still see Benet host Naperville Central on January 26 (good cross-town rivalry, sort of), St. Viator on February 1, or travel to St. Patrick on February 8. And then there's the post-season, of course, and don't be too surprised if the Redwings go deep. The team I saw last night could definitely play on the same court with Simeon or Morgan Park.

As for Marian, the Spartans have upcoming games at St. Viator on January 25, Brother Rice at home on January 29, and host Notre Dame and St. Patrick on February 15 and 20, respectively.

So go and see one of these talented teams play real soon. You won't regret it. (And don't watch it at home on TV; the atmosphere last night was positively electric!)

Oh, and by the way, when did the East Suburban Catholic conference get so good in basketball? Has it always been like this? According to MaxPreps, five of the nine teams are ranked in the top 60 (and don't write off Marist or Nazareth, either):

7. Marian
14. Benet
26. St. Viator
27. Notre Dame
60. St. Patrick

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