Hot shots : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Oswego East boys' basketball team defeats Plainfield |
|by Laura M. Medina|
There was no shortage of offense on the hardwood last Friday night, as the Oswego East boys' basketball team shot its way to a 75-65 road victory versus Plainfield South in Southwest Prairie Conference play.
Thanks in part to the hot-handed shooting efforts of Wolves senior guard CJ Vaughan (35 points) and Cougars guards Alonzo Garrett (24) and Corey Evers (17), there were a combined 78 field goals in the game, including 18 three-pointers.
Each team chipped in 30 two-point baskets and nine three-pointers, with Vaughan and Garrett accounting for six beyond-the-arc shots apiece.
Vaughan started contributing from long range in the first, as he totaled three in that span, helping Oswego East (12-13, 8-5) to an 18-7 lead within the first five minutes. Plainfield South closed the quarter on an 8-3 run, but Wolves' sophomore center Houston McCullum's put-back just seconds before the buzzer capped that scoring stretch.
"Our effort (on Feb. 12 versus Metea Valley at home) was a little bit lackluster, so I was happy to see our guys get on the floor for loose balls, beat them to a couple of them, and though you'd like to see more of that, what they did was good," Wolves first-year head coach Ron Murphy said. "Stuff like that adds up - those loose balls, those 50-50 balls - if you can win the majority of them, they add up."
About 1:30 into the second, Oswego East had opened a 26-15 lead against the home side. Junior guard Jeremy Mitchell provided the assist on both baskets - a layup from senior guard Jordan Baker and another Vaughan three-pointer.
"(Three-pointers are) just part of my game," said Vaughan, who tallied 18 of his game-leading 35 points from beyond the arc. "I felt it (last Friday), and once my team started to see that I was hitting them, they were feeling confidence that they could hit them, too. And after that, we all started passing the ball because we were all comfortable shooting."
But Plainfield South soon responded with two baskets of its own to cut the deficit to six points.
Both teams continued to battle, with the Wolves soon taking a 38-24 advantage with about 2:30 left in the first half. That's when the Cougars turned up the pressure, going on an 8-1 run as the quarter wound down to make it a mere 39-32 lead by halftime.
Oswego East added another five points to start the third but continued to pull away, taking a 48-34 advantage about halfway through.
Plainfield South, though, soon halved its deficit behind a 7-0 swing over the next two minutes.
"The way they play, they're never really out of the game; they were able to jump back, and we kind of let them do that," Murphy said. "Give (Garrett) credit - the kid can play, and he got it going (last Friday)."
Still, that wasn't enough to derail Wolves, who held a 55-48 lead as the quarter ticked down after McCullum hit another put-back just before the buzzer.
There was no stopping Oswego East in the fourth, however, as the team put together a 12-3 run in the first 3:30, including a stretch of three consecutive three-pointers - two from Vaughan and one from junior guard Manny Contreras. That stretch gave the visiting side its largest lead (67-51) of the contest.
"It started on defense," said Vaughan, who had six rebounds and two steals on the night. "Even though we allowed a couple of open threes, we were able to buckle down, grab extra rebounds, and get stops, and on the offensive end, we were able to handle the pressure, make extra passes, find the open guys, and really didn't force that much."
But Plainfield South just wouldn't concede the victory, using four different shooters during an 8-2 swing to cut the deficit to 69-59 with 1:06 remaining.
These squads hustled it out until the end, when Garrett (team-best 24 points) drained a last-effort three-pointer to assure the 75-65 victory for the Wolves, who appear to have turned their season around following a 0-7 start.
"I think a big piece of it has been our level of effort and the way we've defended," Murphy said. "We've been successful when we've defended well, and I think our guys are starting to realize that's how we'll win games. There's something to be said for that.
"In those first seven games, I think you really saw the lack of experience that we had. We couldn't finish games, had a hard time in close ones; now, we're a little bit more comfortable with that stuff."
It's safe to say that the little things are truly helping make a difference for the Wolves. Consider their free-throw shooting, which sank 18 of 25 attempts on the night. Vaughan sank 11 from the stripe alone.
Also, they had offensive contributions from nearly every player on the roster sheet, including eight points and two assists each from senior forward Kendall Dorsey and Contreras.
Senior guard Tyler Ross and senior forward Scooter Smith chipped in six points apiece, with Smith also tallying four rebounds and three blocks on the night.
Whatever Oswego East has been doing, it has been enough to keep the team in the fight for second place in the SPC.
"Our focus is getting better at this time of year," Murphy said. "I think it's at that point where you have teams that are doing one of two things - they're either getting better, or they're staying the same, and for us, we have to keep getting better.
"I think that's where our motivation is. Going into Thursday against Minooka, it's Senior Night; it shouldn't require a ton of motivation, but maybe second place is something that helps us. If that's the carrot we've got to use, that's what we'll use."
For the four-year players making their final regular-season appearance at home, Friday's Senior Night game versus Minooka is one more stepping stone to concluding the slate on the best note possible.
"We're just trying to end the season on another win streak," Vaughan said. "Even though Senior Night's pretty big, it's just another game."
On Monday, Oswego East will host the Class 4A regional and will open with the No. 14 Wolves facing No. 19 Hinsdale South at 6 p.m. The winner will advance to Tuesday's regional semifinal against No. 3 Neuqua Valley.
Also on Monday, No. 11 Metea Valley plays No. 22 East Aurora with the winner meeting No. 6 Waubonsie Valley on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The regional final will take place on March 1.