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West Aurora takes aim at No. 1 Oswego
 

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West Aurora takes aim at No. 1 Oswego
David Oberhelman

Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional semifinal

No. 1 Oswego (28-2) at

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No. 4 West Aurora (22-6)

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Outlook: West Aurora won its 38th regional title, 45-37 over Geneva at Wheaton Warrenville South. For a chance to compete for a 20th sectional title the Blackhawks have to somehow contain the one-two punch of Oswego senior guards Miles Simelton and Elliott McGaughy.

The former scored 25 points, the latter 17 in the Panthers' 72-59 victory over No. 8 seed Bolingbrook at Batavia, Oswego's first regional title since 2010. The Panthers won a 3A sectional in 2010 and were the 3A champions in 2009. "It's going to be a tough one," said West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman. "Obviously, Oswego's got a heck of a ballclub." The 6-foot-1 Simelton, with scholarship offers from Chicago State, Miami (Ohio), Cal-Davis, Loyola, Wofford, Lehigh and Wright State, averages 18.7 points, 3.7 assists and 2 steals, and has hit 79 3-pointers. McGaughy's at 17.8 points and leads Oswego with 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 steals.

"Our kids are quick and we kind of let them fly around and make plays," said Panthers coach Kevin Schnable, the winningest coach in Oswego history.

Simelton and McGaughy have gone to the free throw line a combined 261 times, and operating what Schnable called a "dribble-drive" offense they pass the ball to three other players who have made at least 27 threes -- Darion Reddick, Danny Mangers and super-sub Zach West.

"We've got to cut off penetration," Kerkman said, "and sometimes when you do that you leave them for an open shot. And they've got two, three or possibly four who can light it up from the outside."

Not just fast, Oswego's primary eight-man rotation also includes a couple tough guys in 6-3 guard Jamal Richardson and 6-4 forward Jack Kwiatkowski. Oswego athletic director Darren Howard, the former boys coach at Immaculate Conception, said going into the season defense was a concern; now he said it's a strength. Schnable concurs: "We're giving up about 50 points a game, and the way we play offensively, because we're skilled scorers, we want to have the ball as much as we can. The way we do that is to play defense. The kids have made that connection that the more we have it the more we score."

Oswego finished third at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, and its only two losses are to Proviso East and to Naperville Central the first game of the season.

Schnable is concerned about the physicality of sturdy West Aurora twin forwards Chandler and Spencer Thomas, the scoring ability of Blackhawks point guard Jontrel Walker and the shot-blocking and altering ability of 6-foot-7 center Josh McAuley. Walker, averaging 18 points, will certainly have to be on his game. He's great at the line, 82 percent, and if this goes down to the wire his free-throw shooting will come in handy.

McAuley, averaging 13.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 blocks, cannot get in foul trouble being too aggressive against the penetration of Simelton and McGaughy. If McAuley does have to sit, 6-3 Roland Griffin is certainly an athlete but does not offer the same intimidation factor.

"I don't know if we have any advantage over them other than a big man inside," Kerkman said.

Against Oswego's aggressive man-to-man defense that has six players averaging at least a steal a game and will extend full court, ball possession will be crucial to West Aurora's chances. Walker, heady Jayquan Lee and the Thomas boys, and Matt Dunn and Matt Williams off the bench must remain poised. Williams could play a key role, a 6-2 with solid fundamentals and quick feet who could help wear down Oswego's guards with his linebacker strength.

Tempo will be key, and West Aurora beat Geneva in a a defensive grinder at WW South despite Walker scoring only 7 points (McAuley rose with 18 points, 8 rebounds).

"It's going to take a very good effort on our part," Kerkman said. "Not only effort, but we're going to have to show a lot of patience offensively, where we can get the shots that we want. And we're really going to have to cut off penetration."

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