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Still on the winning track : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Still on the winning track
Oswego East girls' basketball team dispatches Plainfield East

by Laura M. Medina


Whatever Oswego East's girls basketball team has been doing lately seems to be working, as it picked up its eighth straight overall victory, 56-47, last Friday night at Plainfield East in Southwest Prairie Conference play.

After starting their season just 3-6, the Wolves (13-9, 8-1) began the winning streak on Dec. 27 at their own Holiday Classic Tournament and continued it following a 45-44 buzzer-beating victory over Minooka on Jan. 21.

Prior to its recent run of success, Oswego East captured a lopsided 63-24 home triumph over Plainfield East on Dec. 6. The Wolves were spurred by a 9-0 game-opening run in that win.

The teams' latest meeting started with a similarly strong surge, as senior guard Julianna Wordsworth (11 points, five rebounds) staked Oswego East to a 7-0 lead in the first 1:56 of play, opening with a pair of baskets and an old-fashioned three-point play after being fouled.

Plainfield East answered back and jumped ahead just over three minutes later behind Mikaela Manson (17 points, eight rebounds) and Andreana Johnson's four points apiece and Michaela Schmidt's three-pointer.

Freshman forward/center Sydney Schultz's layup with 2:12 remaining in the quarter helped end her team's scoring drought, and with less than a minute left, her drive to the hoop knotted the score at 11-11 heading into the second.

"(Friday's game) was a huge improvement for Plainfield East from our last meeting," Oswego East head coach Abe Carretto said. "They played us hard for all four quarters, and I think that was the big difference between games."

Schultz also had quite the performance versus Plainfield East, leading all players in points (22) and rebounds (12) while also contributing three blocks, two assists, and three steals.

Additional contributors on the boards for the Wolves were junior guard Carissa Corpuz, junior forward Allie Shea, junior point guard Nia Flowers, and junior forward-center Bri McWaine, each with three rebounds on the night.

"For us personally, we've been shorter for many years, but we always rebound well," Carretto said. "If they didn't work hard for that, we wouldn't be successful. I think in order to win games, you have to play well defensively, and you better get rebounds on the defensive end or offensive end; you cannot let people get second-chance points."

The Wolves jumped ahead in the opening seconds of the second quarter, and after battling with the Bengals, they commanded a 24-18 lead with less than a minute to go before halftime.

Plainfield East, however, remained persistent even until the buzzer, as Taylor Cogdell sank a three-pointer with 29 seconds remaining to cut the deficit.

A back-and-forth battle ensued in the third, with neither team taking full control of the game.

Knotted at 35 with 25 seconds remaining, however, senior point guard Venita Parsons (11 points, three rebounds, three steals) drained a three-pointer to give the Wolves the lead as the quarter ended.

Oswego East continued to open its lead in the fourth behind McWaine's drive to the basket and Parsons' long jumper, which made it a 42-35 game about 2:50 into the quarter.

"We had to go over the game plan again," Carretto said. "Our press wasn't working very well, and they were getting some good looks but nothing awesome.

"I thought if we trapped a little more we could get something going, but we weren't trapping as much. The last time we played them, we trapped more, and it affected the game in our favor."

But Plainfield East did not give in, as Amber Watson drained a three-pointer about 30 seconds later to halt the surge.

After trading baskets again, the Bengals trailed 44-40 with about four minutes remaining, but it would be the closest that they would get to the Wolves, who went on an 8-2 run to bring the game to the 1:17 mark.

Fouls and free throws marked the last stretch of the contest, allowing Oswego East to secure its victory and continue its recent run of success. It didn't come without its challenges, however.

"We got a victory, but I think Plainfield East outplayed us," Carretto said. "I think they played harder than we did, had a little more heart, were a little more aggressive, and we were just lucky to put a group in there in the second and third quarter that got us a little bit of a lead.

"We kept our composure and hit a couple of free throws to get the lead, and fortunately, for us, they missed a few shots and free throws."

Carretto's team was scheduled to return to the hardwood on Tuesday night at Plainfield South, but extreme temperatures in the area closed several schools and cancelled many athletic events.

Oswego East's next game is Friday night against Romeoville at home. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m., as the Wolves look to extend their winning streak to nine games and secure their ninth SPC victory of the season.

To do that, however, the Wolves will have to maintain their overall focus and return to the basics that helped them start their winning ways.

"You have to keep practice intense, make sure you're going over what the other team is going to do, prepare for the next game, and keep focusing on that and those fundamentals that make you a better team," Carretto said.

"We need to have better defense and play with a little more heart. We've been playing like that, and that's why we were back over .500, but (Friday night), we didn't play that way. I don't think we took Plainfield East for granted, but I just thought that some of the girls thought they could not play that great, and it would be okay to get going. Never underestimate your opponent; they are trying to knock you out."

Notes: Parsons gave a verbal commitment to Benedictine University in Lisle to continue her playing career with the women's basketball team.

The Eagles are coached by Kristen Gillespie and are currently 7-10 on the season and 7-5 in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC). Benedictine is a Division III program.

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