No letdown: Benet beats Marist for its 11th consecutive win

The Redwings are the only top-level team in the area that hasn’t had a letdown this season.

SHARE No letdown: Benet beats Marist for its 11th consecutive win
Benet’s Niko Abusara (23) slams home a basket in the second half against Marist.

Benet’s Niko Abusara (23) slams home a basket in the second half against Marist.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

The Illinois High School Association released the state playoff brackets on Friday afternoon. Most teams were on the bus heading to a game or already in the gym preparing to play.

It can be hard to stay focused on the task at hand when the road to the state championship has finally been revealed. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t faze No. 2 Benet, which knocked off No. 19 Marist 60-53 on Friday in Chicago.

The Redwings (27-1, 15-0 East Suburban Catholic) are the only top-level team in the area that hasn’t had a letdown this season. Even after knocking off Kenwood in late January, Benet remained locked in and didn’t suffer an upset.

“We made sure not to get inflated heads,” Redwings point guard Brayden Fagbemi said. “We stayed level-headed and used the momentum from that game to ride as far as we could. It’s important to keep getting better every day. Just because we beat Kenwood it doesn’t mean we are the best team in the state.”

Marist (23-6, 12-3) never let Benet build a big lead. The RedHawks led early and the game was tied when Benet closed the third quarter with a 9-2 run.

“They are really tough to guard,” Redwings coach Gene Heidkamp said. “They run great stuff and have five scoring options on the floor. We had to grind it out and come up with some stops down the stretch.”

The RedHawks have beaten some good teams this season, but they rely on several very talented young players and have repeatedly come up just short against the area’s best teams.

“We are out there with a lot of 14 year olds and it just comes down to a shot or two that we can’t get to pull out the win,” Marist coach Brian Hynes said. “I just want the kids to get that feeling that we are getting over the hump.”

Niko Abusara led Benet with 13 points and eight rebounds and Fagbemi scored 14 points. Junior Parker Sulaver provided a big lift in the first half and finished with 10 points for the Redwings.

“The guys have done a good job of focusing on what’s in front of them,” Heidkamp said. “We are not going to overpower anybody with our size and athleticism. We have to play every time we step out on the floor.”

Senior Justin Lang scored 15 for Marist and freshman Adoni Vassilakis added 14. Sophomore Marquis Vance was ferocious in the post, finishing with eight points and 10 rebounds.

The future is bright for the young RedHawks, who picked up the No. 4 seed in the St. Rita sectional.

Benet is the top seed in the Bartlett sectional. The Redwings would be the favorite in every game all the way to the Class 4A state championship in Champaign.

“We have a pretty good idea of what we have to do,” Heidkamp said. “You have to go in to the playoffs playing your best basketball. We’ve done a pretty good job so far but there’s so much left to do.”

Watch the final minute of Benet at Marist:

The Latest
Larry Neuman sought to bring people together and hoped to do more for young people. The retired police officer, Vietnam vet and ordained minister ‘probably knew just about everybody in the neighborhood.’
Sandberg said attending the ceremony was a “guarantee,” even after his cancer diagnosis this past winter.
With Caitlin Clark-Angel Reese rivalry rising to another level, this is going to be fun for years to come.
The subject of abortion and reproductive freedoms is going to come up Thursday, when former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden face off in their first 2024 debate hosted by CNN in Atlanta.
Leiter is just the latest Cubs hurler to end up on the IL, further testing the team’s depth.