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Demanding respect : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Demanding respect
Oswego girls' basketball team takes top-seeded Wildcats down to the wire

by Kristin Sharp

3/6/2014

The Oswego girls' basketball team knew it would take tremendous effort and a near perfect game to upset top-seeded Neuqua Valley in last Thursday's Class 4A Joliet Central Sectional championship game.
Although the Panthers never led over the Wildcats, they certainly caused some panicked moments for the Neuqua Valley squad. With six minutes to play in the game, No. 3 Oswego rallied from a 12-point deficit to pull within two, but time ran out on the Panthers' comeback effort as Neuqua Valley escaped with the 54-52 victory.
"We really haven't been getting a lot of respect all season long. We won 20 out of our last 22 ball games and finished undefeated in our conference and no one gave us any attention, but we battled that team out there tonight as good as anybody in the state," Oswego head coach Chad Pohlmann said. "I'm real proud of my team. It's a heart-breaker; it hurts. We expected to win the game."
On Tuesday, Neuqua Valley (28-6) met Whitney Young in the Hinsdale Central Super-Sectional and saw its season come to a close with a 57-38 loss as Whitney Young advances to the state tournament with Geneva, Marian and Rolling Meadows.
"Everybody kept taking shots back and forth. That's probably the best game I've seen Oswego play all year," Neuqua Valley head coach Mike Williams said. "They're well-coached, play hard and they played their hearts out and left everything on the floor.
"They couldn't miss a shot. Luckily, we were able to trap and they ran out of time. A few more seconds and it could have been different."
The fourth quarter was both a high point and a low point for Oswego. Oswego junior Siarra O'Neill hit a three-pointer at the close the third quarter and pull the Panthers within four, 42-38, as the fourth period got underway, but Oswego's basket sealed shut for the next two minutes of play.
Neuqua Valley expanded its lead to 12 behind a pair of early baskets from senior Najee Smith, and Pohlmann called a timeout when the Wildcats surged ahead, 50-38, with 5:59 to play.
Junior Jordan Campbell tried to end Neuqua Valley's 8-0 run, but she was fouled on her putback attempt. Instead, she added two points at the free-throw line, and moments later O'Neill (12 points) sank her third three-pointer of the game and Wilder (13 points) followed up with another three-pointer for a 50-46 game with 2:26 to play.
Free throws allowed Neuqua Valley to maintain a 52-46 lead with one minute left to play.
The six-point lead was not safe, however, as Oswego added two more baskets beyond the arc.
First, Wilder scored three points with 37 seconds to play. Neuqua Valley knocked in two at the foul line, but junior Erin Sinnott scored a three-pointer with 16 seconds left to create at 54-52 game.
"I think if we would have played a little better in those four minutes, we would have pulled it out," Oswego head coach Chad Pohlmann said. "We got a little out of it and rushed some shots and forced some things at the start of the fourth quarter. ... We started making threes, and when you're making threes and they're shooting one, you're going to get back in the game. We made some gutsy baskets there and I'm so proud of my team."
Neuqua Valley called another timeout and drew another foul, but this time both free throws were unsuccessful. Wilder took the ball down the court with 8.5 seconds remaining, but the Neuqua Valley defense swarmed and Wilder could not get the final shot off before the final horn.
"We played a little helter-skelter there and had been successful, and I felt like with six seconds left, there wasn't a lot of time to match their pressure, get to the sideline and then get one off. We decided not (to call a timeout) and it was unfortunate for us that it didn't work out," Pohlmann said.
Neuqua Valley built a 17-8 lead to start the game behind a pair of three-pointers from senior Niki Lazar (13 points), but Oswego senior Kelsey Nelson scored a late free throw and hit a shot at the buzzer to leave the Wildcats with a 17-11 lead going into the second period.
Oswego opened the next quarter on a 7-0 run for a 17-15 score, but Smith (12 points) hit a three-pointer to prevent the Panthers from a game-tying opportunity. Nelson completed a three-point play after she was fouled on her successful layup, and scored moments later for a 22-20 score. Nelson was the only senior in Oswego's starting lineup this season and scored nine points for her team in her final high school game in addition to six rebounds.
"Every good team that is successful and has won championships has a glue person, and Kelsey is our glue. She's our warrior," Pohlmann said. "She does all our dirty work. She makes the reverse pass, makes the high-low pass, finishes around the rim, makes all those plays that go unnoticed in the scorebook. You can't replace a kid like her. She's been a pleasure to coach for four years. She has phenomenal character and cares about her teammates more than anyone I've coached."
Neuqua Valley pulled away before halftime to take a 31-25 lead at intermission, and scored six quick points in the third and established a 39-28 lead before Pohlmann called a timeout with 3:21 left to play in the period.
O'Neill was fouled on a putback and completed the three-point play, and Sinnott connected on her jumper, prompting Neuqua Valley to take a timeout, leading 39-33. Campbell scored on a layup and that led into O'Neill's three-pointer at the close of the quarter and the furious finish in the sectional championship.
"How could you be displeased with their effort? We took that team right to the end and they didn't really think a whole lot of us at the start," Pohlmann said. "I'm real proud of my team."




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