Boys Basketball: Benet follows familiar formula, eases past Lake Park into sectional final

Benet’s Sam Driscoll (1) drives to the basket against Lake Park's Dennasio LaGioia (24) during a Bartlett 4A Sectional semifinal boys basketball game at Bartlett High School on Tuesday, Feb 28, 2023.

BARTLETT – At the appropriate time, Benet can look back on its budding, dominant season in a reflective mood.

It still has a sectional and state championship to capture first.

“I don’t want them to be remembered yet at all because it’s just way too early. We just said in the locker room our record is 0-0 on Friday,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said after the Redwings’ 51-35 victory over Lake Park in the Class 4A Bartlett Sectional semifinal.

The Redwings are back in the sectional final for the first time since 2018.

“Whoever we’re playing, we’re going to be playing an excellent team, whether it’s Geneva or Wheaton Warrenville South [for the sectional title],” Heidkamp said. “And there’ll be time for us to look back on that once we’re done playing. We just want to keep extending our season.”

Last season’s Class 4A state champion Glenbard West bulldozed its way to a 36-1 record and was the undeniable powerhouse. Benet (32-1) has its own chapter to write this season, with more wins to secure in order to reach the final destination. But the trajectory is similar: A 16-game winning streak and just one loss by a mere three points in December to Simeon suggests the Redwings may be on their way to state glory.

A potential rematch of last year’s sectional semifinal with Wheaton Warrenville South could be next on the docket depending on the result of Wednesday’s game. Benet lost that matchup last season before the Tigers ran into Glenbard West.

Benet’s Brayden Fagbemi (0) shoots the ball in the post against Lake Park's Adrian Notardonato (3) during a Bartlett 4A Sectional semifinal boys basketball game at Bartlett High School on Tuesday, Feb 28, 2023.

“We’re playing for a sectional championship. None of these guys in the locker room have won a sectional championship,” Heidkamp said. “So we know how hard that is. We’ve been lucky enough as a program to win some, but it’s special for every group.”

Benet jumped out to a 29-18 halftime lead against Lake Park and followed the formula that has worked for it all season long with strong shooting from the floor and team defense.

Sam Driscoll (15 points, three rebounds), Brayden Fagbemi (13 points, six rebounds), Brady Kunka (seven points, eight rebounds) and Parker Sulaver (six points) all found stretches to be productive.

“Our ultimate goal is not just to win a sectional semifinal game,” Driscoll said. “But, I mean, anything I can do to help the team, I’m glad to do it.”

“[Parker] brings toughness, rebounding [and] incredible defense,” Driscoll said. “I mean, everyone says we’re undersized and we play these 6-9, 6-10 guys. But he’s the one playing who is defense on every possession. The limited looks he gets, his percentage shooting-wise is incredible.”

Benet then handled things on the defensive end.

“I think the big thing was we had a good start the first half of the [first] quarter, but that second half, we had a couple turnovers,” Lancers coach Billy Pitcher said. “It’s not like [Benet] is out pressuring and trapping. But you just make any mistake and great teams like that take advantage of it and they had a couple of those.”

Lake Park's Camden Cerese (1) shoots a three-pointer against Benet’s Parker Sulaver (14) during a Bartlett 4A Sectional semifinal boys basketball game at Bartlett High School on Tuesday, Feb 28, 2023.

After Lancers guard Cam Cerese buried a 3-pointer with 5:45 left in the third quarter for their first points of the half, Lake Park was held scoreless the rest of the period.

Meanwhile, the Redwings ripped off an 11-0 run that began with Nikola Abusara’s jumper, a layup from Sulaver and back-to-back 3-pointers from Driscoll.

Despite 18 points from Cerese, Lake Park (22-11) had difficulty playing catch-up. Josh Gerber finished with nine points, while Tommy Rochford had five points.

“They just took everything away,” Pitcher said. “We put in a couple of new sets and it didn’t matter. They are just so good defensively. They’re so strong and they have that extra inch or two at every position that we’re not used to and they get deflections and passes aren’t open that they normally are. ... Then they make you pay on the other end.”

Jacob Bartelson

Jacob Bartelson

Jake is a full-time sports reporter writing primarily for the Kane County Chronicle covering preps. His collective work is featured across several Shaw markets and platforms, including Friday Night Drive and Bears Insider. Jake began full-time in 2017.