Defensive whiz Sam Hennessy helps Benet beat St. Viator

The Redwings held the Lions, who upset Notre Dame on Friday, to just one basket for an 11-minute stretch of the first half.

SHARE Defensive whiz Sam Hennessy helps Benet beat St. Viator
St. Viator’s Eli Aldana (1) controls the ball as Benet’s Brady Kunka (12) and Sam Hennessy (23) defend.

St. Viator’s Eli Aldana (1) controls the ball as Benet’s Brady Kunka (12) and Sam Hennessy (23) defend.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Winning defensively isn’t pretty and it isn’t easy or particularly fun. And based on pretty much every big school state champion since maybe 1972 Thornridge, it also puts a limit on success.

But most high school basketball teams have to find a way to win with what walks through the door, so sometimes that makes it a necessity.

“We’re not necessarily going to outscore people,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. “So we have to find a way to slow down the other team.”

That’s what the Redwings did on Sunday in Lisle. Led by defensive whiz Sam Hennessy, Benet clamped down on a young, confident St. Viator team and earned a 49-36 victory.

The Redwings (8-3, 6-2 East Suburban Catholic) held the Lions, who upset Notre Dame on Friday, to just one basket for an 11-minute stretch of the first half.

“The biggest thing is that it is five against one on defense,” Benet senior Tyler Van Eekeren said. “Whoever has the ball, our defense is oriented towards them. We found our identity playing defense and have been doing a great job.”

St. Viator (5-3, 4-3) pulled within four points of Benet early in the fourth quarter. But the Redwings ended the threat with a 6-0 run in which Luke Nolan scored five points.

“We had a monster win at home against Notre Dame on Friday,” St. Viator coach Michael O’Keeffe said. “We talked to the kids about it, that we can’t be satisfied with one huge win. We were hungry for more, we wanted more. But Benet played the game at their pace, they defended at a high level, took care of the ball and executed their offense.”

Senior Carson Diehl led Benet with 19 points and eight rebounds. Nolan finished with 10 points and Hennessy added eight points and five rebounds.

“Normally these guys are getting all the buckets for me,” Diehl said. “Luckily they found me when I need it. All my points were assisted so I owe that to my teammates.”

Aidan Harrington led St. Viator with 15 points and nine rebounds. Connor Benson scored eight points and promising sophomore guard Eli Aldana added seven.

“Sam Hennessy is one of the better defensive players in the conference,” Heidkamp said. “He’s guarded all the best players in our league. I think that can get lost in the shuffle. His ability to slow Aldana down and keep him from getting in our lane was a huge factor.”

Watch the final minute of St. Viator at Benet:

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