PEORIA — An old sports adage says that defense wins championships.
On Friday, it got the (Lisle) Benet Academy Redwings into the Class 4A state tournament title game.
Collin Bonett scored eight of his 10 points in the second half to key a 13-2 scoring run and Benet survived some poor free-shooting down the stretch to defeat Edwardsville 38-33 in the Class 4A semifinals at Carver Arena.
With the score tied at 21 early in the third quarter, Bonett scored six straight points as Benet (25-7) took the lead for good.
The Redwings lead grew to 34-23 midway through the fourth quarter before Edwardsville (30-3) rallied behind seniors Armon Fletcher and Shawn Roundtree.
Fletcher scored twice on offensive putbacks as the Tigers closed to within five points and when Roundtree, who led all scorers with 13 points, made two free throws with 16 seconds left, Edwardsville was down just 36-33.
But when Josh Yesufu hit one free throw with 7.1 seconds remaining, the Redwings had locked up a berth in the title game against Chicago Public League power Whitney Young.
"I think I'll go to church and pray,'' Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "Everybody knows how good Whitney Young is and all about their great players. But we're in the state title game and we've got a shot.
"Anybody who likes basketball in its purest form would love this game. Two teams playing hard for 32 minutes. I thought our defense was tremendous tonight.''
Bidding for its first state title game appearance since finishing second in 1956, Edwardsville will play for third place for the second straight year.
The Tigers will take on Lincolnshire Stevenson at 6:30 p.m. Stevenson defeated the Tigers in the semifinals a year ago.
Stymied by the Redwings defense, Edwardsville shot just 32 percent for the game (12 of 37).
"I thought it was a hard-fought game by both teams. They played excellent defense and didn't allow us to do some of the things we like to do,'' Tigers coach Mike Waldo said. "Still, we didn't quit and we gave ourselves a chance late in the game.
"I thought we played great defense on a very good team.''
The Tigers, who shot just 35.3 percent (6-for-17) from the floor in the first half, had just one lead when Roundtree scored with 51 seconds left in the first quarter to make it 9-8.
But O'Mara, a Xavier University recruit, scored on a 5-foot jumper to but Benet up 10-9.
The Redwings then took their biggest lead of the first half when O'Mara canned a pair of free throws and Pelleteri nailed his second 3-pointer, making it 15-9.
The Tigers, who went 4 minutes 51 seconds without scoring, got consecutive baskets from Roundtree and Clay to cut the lead to 15-13 and when Roundtree hit a 3 to end the half, Edwardsville was within 17-16.
Whitney Young (27-5) defeated Stevenson 75-68 in the first semifinal as Duke recruit Jahlil Okafor scored 33 points to lead the Dolphins.
The 6-foot, 11-inch Okafor is rated by some as the No. 1 high school player in the nation. Georgetown recruit Paul White added 16 for the Dolphins.
Stevenson junior Jalen Brunson scored a state-tournament record 56 points in the loss. The previous record was held by Jim Edmondson of Hinkley-Big Rock, who scored 55 in a Class A Super-sectional game against Winnebago in 1984.