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Down to the wire : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Down to the wire
Oswego girls' basketball team advances to sectional final

by Kristin Sharp


The Oswego girls' basketball team took another step into uncharted territory on Monday night in the Class 4A Joliet Sectional.

The current members of the varsity squad were middle schoolers when Oswego won its last regional title, advanced through the sectional and eventually on to a Class 3A state trophy, finishing fourth.

The Panthers, despite their inexperience in postseason success, navigated their way into the Sweet Sixteen with a 47-42 victory over Metea Valley to advance to the sectional championship game today, Thursday, at 7 p.m. against Neuqua Valley.

"It was just a matter of getting the girls to relax and be comfortable making plays," Oswego head coach Chad Pohlmann said. "This is the first time they've played in this game before so we have four juniors and a senior, and our bench, that have never played in a sectional semifinal. It's a new experience for us, but I look back and the start of the game was huge."

Oswego improved to 24-7 with Monday's win, and the third-seeded Panthers will meet the top-seeded Wildcats for a second time this season after falling to Neuqua Valley 41-25 in the Oswego Holiday Classic in mid-December. Neuqua Valley (27-5) reached the sectional championship with a 54-37 semifinal win over Benet on Monday.

Metea Valley (16-15) stunned the sectional bracket with its 47-43 overtime victory against No. 2 Bolingbrook in the regional final to advance to the sectional. The Mustangs kept the momentum rolling into Monday's game with a solid game against Oswego.

"That team does not have any quit," Pohlmann said of Metea Valley. "I've watched them play a lot in the last few weeks and they're a gutsy bunch of girls. Give them credit. Defensively, we stayed with our game plan. The girls just kept battling. It's that time of year, and it's survive and advance and we're going to get a great challenge on Thursday."

Oswego junior Amri Wilder hit a pair of early three-pointers before junior teammate Siarra O'Neill found her niche with two triples of her own, pushing Oswego to a 16-9 lead with 2:13 to play in the first quarter.

O'Neill's early confidence would come back to haunt Metea Valley, as O'Neill sank another three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to help spark the Panthers to victory. She finished with a team-best 12 points.

Although Oswego managed an 18-11 lead through the opening eight minutes, Metea Valley's defense caused fits for the Panthers, and Oswego would only score four more points before halftime. Metea Valley's Jenny Voytell (20 points) scored five quick points for the Mustangs, with her second basket of the quarter giving her team a 20-19 lead and prompting an Oswego timeout.

Voytell scored nine points in the second quarter and helped Metea Valley secure a 27-23 halftime lead. Aside from a pair of early free throws from junior Jordan Campbell, Oswego continued its offensive slump into a 29-25 deficit late in the third quarter.

Senior Kelsey Nelson (nine points) was fouled with 2:15 to play in the period, and she converted on the three-point play to pull the Panthers within one, 29-28, and junior Erin Sinnott's putback created a 31-30 Metea Valley lead at the end of the third.

Voytell struck again in the fourth, nailing a three-pointer in the opening minute, but O'Neill answered with her own triple. One minute later, Campbell (nine points) was fouled on a successful layup, and her free throw tied the game at 36.

With 4:16 to play, O'Neill sent up her fourth three-pointer of the game to give Oswego its first lead of the second half - 39-38 - and Oswego never relinquished the lead from that point.

"I told them to relax and calm down and run your stuff, execute your offense and make plays," Pohlmann said.

"Once Siarra hit that three, it had to force them to come out a bit and that opened up some inside stuff."

Campbell's layup and Sinnott's putback on a missed free throw pushed the Panthers ahead 43-39. Voytell's three-pointer with 53 seconds remaining created a one-point game and Metea Valley called a timeout to regroup for the final stretch.

"Jordan's basket inside was huge, Siarra hit a couple threes and then Erin's putback on the free throw was the momentum killer, I think, for them to put us over the top," Pohlmann said.

Oswego missed the front end of a one-and-one three times in the final 50 seconds, but Sinnott (nine points, eight rebounds) was fouled and converted both free throws for a 45-42 score. Although Wilder missed in her first time at the line, she redeemed herself with the second trip, going 2-for-2 with 13 seconds left to extend Oswego's lead, 48-42. Metea Valley missed its final three-point attempt of the game, and Oswego hauled in the rebound to clinch the victory.

This was Metea Valley's first sectional appearance in program history.

"We made some bad decisions down the stretch. We missed a box out, we missed a big matchup on a three-point shooter and to their credit they executed and hit the big shots when they needed to," Metea Valley head coach Kris Kalivas said. "The kids played hard. All we can ask them to do is leave it all on the floor and I truly believe they did that. I'm proud of their effort."

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