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Early stumble : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Early stumble
Oswego boys' basketball team falls in third-place tournament game

by Laura M. Medina


Oswego and Naperville North's boys' basketball teams each take great pride in sharing Hoops for Healing duties, so it's special when the two can meet up during the tournament.

Entering the final day of competition with identical records pitted the co-hosts against one another, and it was the Huskies that emerged victorious over the Panthers, 79-61, in the third-place game last Friday at Oswego.

After defeating Waukegan and Metea Valley in the first two days of the Thanksgiving week tournament, Oswego (2-2) faltered against eventual tournament runner-up Naperville Central despite a valiant comeback on Nov. 27.

The team's standing set up the contest against Naperville North, which opened its bracket with a loss to eventual tournament champion Benet Academy and followed it up with wins over Neuqua Valley and Oswego East.

But from the beginning, things did not appear to favor the Panthers, who struggled to find their stride in the first and trailed 5-0 within the first 1:30 of play before falling behind 19-12 at the end of the quarter.

It was the start of an overall tough night for Oswego.

"We feel like the first three games were beneficial because all of them were single-digit (outcomes), and what a great way to grow up and get it with the experience of close, competitive games," Oswego head coach Kevin Schnable said. "Obviously, we got the two W's (last) Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday we played our butts off."

"Friday was just a disappointing downer, and hopefully, we figure out that getting our butts kicked is not that much fun."

Hardships continued for the Panthers in the second, and soon, the Huskies had built a 27-20 advantage with 3:56 remaining in the half.

Over the next three minutes, though, Oswego put together a 10-2 momentum swing for its first lead of the contest. Sophomore Steven Frank (12 points, four rebounds) led the charge with four points, while junior Javon Jones, freshman Jaylen Jones, and sophomore Malique Ross each contributed two.

With about 32 seconds left, though, guard Anthony Rehayem sank a pair of free throws to put Naperville North on top by one at the half.

Both teams appeared poised and prepared for the second half, as the Panthers kept pace with the Huskies, using a Jaylen Jones basket with 5:15 remaining in the third to close the scoring gap to just 38-36. After that possession, however, the wheels seemingly came off for Oswego.

Following a few ill-timed fouls on its part, Naperville North straightened up and went on a 19-2 scoring tangent to round out the quarter. Guard-forward Baylor Griffin paced the team with six points, while guard Jelani McClain, Jr., added four of his own. Guard-forward Zach Tuxhorn and Rehayem each added a three-pointer for the Huskies.

When all was said and done, they had out-scored the Panthers 26-8 in the third.

"We didn't come to compete, we didn't play together as a team, and we got absolutely man-handled," Schnable said. "In all physical aspects of the game, they dominated us. Our kids were in excuse-mode, and that's part of the problem. We were feeling sorry for ourselves."

Oswego scored first in the fourth quarter - a basket from sophomore Joe Hennessy (10 points) - to make it a 57-40 deficit, but Naperville North continued to pull away, leading by as many as 24 points (75-51) with about three minutes left in the game.

Even though the Panthers closed the game on a 10-4 surge led by junior Jacob Sall's five points, they still dropped the contest, 79-61, to take fourth place overall.

Junior Zach West, who scored nearly 30 points per game in each of the first three contests of the tournament, led Oswego with 13 points last Friday but was limited to just four in the second half, as Naperville North swarmed the forward and diffused his offensive threats.

"We're no secret," Schnable said. "He struggled, therefore, we struggled. I mean, it's reality. He's going to see it game in and game out, but it's about how he responds to it, and how we respond to it, and we didn't. That's why there are five guys out there."

Oswego will be looking for a more complete team effort when it returns to the court Friday versus visiting Plainfield South for its Southwest Prairie Conference opener at 6:30 p.m.

Notes: In the championship game, Benet defeated Naperville Central 71-47 on Friday night. West was named the Oswego Pool MVP with an average of 31.7 points per game during the tournament, including 11.7 rebounds per game. The Naperville North Pool MVP was Sean O'Mara of Benet, averaging 21 ppg and 11.3 rpg. Metea Valley defeated Oswego East 65-60 for fifth place, and Neuqua Valley defeated Waukegan 77-71 for seventh place.

During Wednesday's pool play games, Oswego lost to Naperville Central, 82-75. West had 30 points on 6-for-10 shooting from three-point range while Frank added 10 points and Jamon Ross chipped in with nine. The Panthers trailed the Redhawks 44-41 at halftime, but fell behind 66-54 late in the third quarter. Oswego chipped away at its deficit to pull within three (74-71) after a three-point play by West, and a basket by Ross created a 78-75 game before Naperville Central sank three free throws to close the game.

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