Reality of defeat : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Reality of defeat |
|West Aurora gets past Oswego, Panthers end season at 28|
|by Kristin Sharp|
Nearly a week had passed since the Oswego boys' basketball team dropped a heartbreaking 61-60 loss to West Aurora in the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional semifinal, and Oswego head coach Kevin Schnable couldn't watch the game film just yet.
In a season that was defined by a record-setting 28 victories, two tournament trophies and a regional championship, the Panthers rode a 17-game win streak entering the March 6 game.
"We forgot how it feels to lose," Schnable said. "It had been so long. The feeling, the emotion - it hurts.
Oswego had less than 10 seconds to find a way to win on March 6 in Bolingbrook. Trailing West Aurora 61-60 with the ball under their own basket, the Panthers had one final opportunity for victory.
The inside presence of West Aurora's 6-foot-7 senior center Josh McAuley especially hurt the Panthers in the second half of last Friday's Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional semifinal game, and McAuley was the player to clinch the win for the Blackhawks.
"We knew that he (McAuley) had the potential to be a big game changer and on that night he changed the game," Schnable said. "When we were able to get by their on-ball defenders, he was there waiting for us. It changed some of our short shots and the way we attack the basket and drive the ball. It's not like we were intimidated, but there was a big boy waiting for us and he did a great job protecting the house for West."
McAuley helped extend West Aurora's season when he dunked the ball with 21 seconds to play, and then blocked Oswego senior Miles Simelton's jumper with 9.7 seconds left.
Because McAuley tipped the ball out of bounds, Oswego (28-3) got the ball back trailing 61-60, and Schnable called a full timeout.
"We take pride in our special situations including baseline out. We were proficient in that area all season," Schnable said. "It came down to two plays in my mind - one was out of a box alignment and the other was out of a triangle alignment ... I don't know how much more we could ask for other than a tie score. Single-digit seconds, the ball is baseline out by our basket. We have executed baseline-outs all season. We got two cracks at it and the ball just didn't bounce our way."
Senior Jamaal Richardson worked to get the ball inbounds on a one-shot opportunity. Sophomore Zach West took the inbounds pass and kicked it out to Simelton, but his jumper was short. Richardson found the rebound, but his putback also missed and West Aurora (24-6) hauled in the rebound to seal its upset win over No. 1 Oswego.
"We got the ball in Miles' hands and that's what we wanted. If I had to do it all over again, second-guessing myself and maybe go with triangle and get the ball to Elliot (McGaughy) right away," Schnable said. "I also should have said to Zach - he was open on the entry - I should have said something to him coming out of the huddle. Zach had the hot hand.
"I don't know any coach who doesn't want the ball in a senior's hand, specifically Miles. Zach did what he was taught to do and did what the majority of sophomores would do in that situation and deferred to the senior. I wish I would have said something to him. That's on me."
West Aurora rallied in a 42-38 comeback win on Friday over Benet Academy to clinch the sectional championship and set a date with Proviso East in the Hinsdale Central Super-Sectional on Tuesday.
Proviso West won 62-52 over West Aurora to return to the Class 4A state finals.
"They're legit. They're one of the best programs in the state with one of the best coaches in the state," Schnable said of West Aurora.
"I think a lot of people forget that they were in the Super last year and brought back four starters with playoff experience. It doesn't get much better than that."
Outside of the first quarter, Oswego could only tie the Blackhawks on the scoreboard and trailed by as many as seven late in the third quarter.
Battling back throughout the fourth quarter, Oswego finally took a 52-50 lead with 5:03 to play in the game when McGaughy (20 points, seven rebounds) was fouled on his putback and completed the three-point play.
Oswego trailed again before McGaughy's steal and pass to West, who converted behind the arc for a 56-54 lead with 2:11 to play. West Aurora went ahead by one until Simelton's basket, and one minute later he went 2-for-2 at the foul line to put the Panthers back on top, 60-59, with 36 seconds remaining.
West Aurora followed with McAuley's game-winning basket, and the Blackhawks successfully protected the hoop at the opposite end in the final 20 seconds of play.
"It's a great accomplishment," West Aurora head coach Gordie Kerkman said. "It's a one-point ball game and they have the ball inbounds. Four of our losses this year have been by three, two, two and one (point). We couldn't lose another one like this; we didn't. The kids worked hard tonight and they've been working hard all year."
Last week's sectional semifinal was the first meeting between Oswego and West Aurora since the Blackhawks topped the Panthers, 73-56, in the Oswego Regional championship.
"They got a little closer this year," Kerkman said. "They do a lot of dribble drive and we pretty much tried to keep them from going to the basket as much as possible. By the same token, with the way they shoot the ball, they shot the ball against us much better this year than last year. The way they shoot it, you not only have to have help, but you can't leave your man too far because Elliot and Simelton can shoot, but so can 23 (West) and 33 (Darion Reddick) too. It was much more difficult this year."
Oswego relied heavily on its three-point shooting in the sectional semifinal as all but four first-half points were made behind the arc. Simelton, Reddick (2) and McGaughy all made successful three-pointers in the first quarter to keep pace with West Aurora, which led 15-12 after the opening eight minutes.
McGaughy's layup early in the second quarter brought Oswego within two, 17-15, and his three-pointer with 3:45 to play finally pushed the Panthers to a 19-18 lead. But for every successful Oswego three, West Aurora answered with an inside basket. Senior Danny Mangers hit a long-range shot with 3:02 to play for a 22-20 Oswego lead, but West Aurora battled back out to a 26-22 halftime lead.
"I thought we did a great job defensively," Kerkman said. "Offensively, we didn't have too many turnovers, but foolish turnovers that I thought were unforced."
Oswego had a strong start to the second half as senior Jack Kwiatkowski went 2-for-2 at the foul line, Reddick had a layup and steal and McGaughy sank a three-pointer to tie the game at 30 with 5:42 to play.
"We made seven field goals in the first half and six were behind the arc," Schnable said. "That was the way we played. We made a big deal about playing our way and at that stage we're not going to stop our kids from shooting. They have the green light. When you looked at the shot chart, it's consistent about what we talked about with Josh McAuley waiting for us. It was 'take what you can get' and that was the three.
"I was concerned at halftime about the foul disparity, but we tried to convince our kids that West was being more aggressive and that's why they were getting the calls. We were reminded in a harsh way that defense wins playoff games. We had several uncharacteristic mistakes. We were so solid defensively all year."
From that point, West Aurora went on a 6-0 run sparked by McAuley's basket and Oswego called a timeout with 4:41 left in the third quarter. Simelton (16 points, eight assists) ended the run with a jumper and West (11 points, seven rebounds) sank a three-pointer to cut the Blackhawk's lead to 38-35.
"Our kids did not go away," Schnable said. "It was a hard-fought game and we never gave up. In a game that has 17 lead changes, we make a big deal out of momentum and getting consecutive shots, and we just weren't able to string those shots together. That's something we did all season. We were able to go on a lot of runs and scoring blitzes, and we never really got that going. It was inevitable that it was going to come down to the last shot."
With each Oswego basket, West Aurora junior Jontrel Walker (19 points) answered with a layup. West found his way inside for a layup and on the next possession was good on a putback attempt. West Aurora turned the ball over and Simelton was fouled on his successful bucket, completing the three-point play for a 44-42 West Aurora lead.
Just as the game's momentum seemed to be shifting to Oswego, McAuley (14 points) received his fourth foul of the game to provide a further spark for the Panthers.
Oswego entered the fourth quarter trailing 46-42 and the game only intensified throughout the final eight minutes of regulation.
"I have not had the courage to watch the game. I have replayed it how many times in my head," Schnable said. "It's a 32-minute game, so I have replayed quite a bit. There's a lot that takes place in 32 minutes and could have gone either way."