Neuqua Valley wins motivation in loss against Oswego
Oswego has been searching for a little more recognition for its girls basketball program, and Monday night's win against highly regarded Neuqua Valley should help plenty in that regard.
The Panthers (7-3) avenged a tight sectional loss last season to Neuqua Valley with an impressive 58-44 defeat of the Wildcats in Hoops for the Troops tourney action in Oswego. The hosts led for much of the game and when they did trail for a spell in the second quarter, Erin Sinnott knocked down three straight 3-pointers as part of a 17-0 run.
Neuqua Valley (9-2) may not have been at its best, but it still managed to rebound from that 17-0 stretch in the second quarter to climb to within 40-35 after three quarters and then get as close as 40-37 with six minutes left to play following a pair of free throws by Kai Moon, who led her team with 16 points.
Moon was not too upset and expects the Wildcats to put the loss in the rearview mirror, especially with a tough match against Rich South up next on Wednesday in Oswego.
"We definitely see it as motivation," the junior guard said. "This was a game that in our minds we shouldn't have lost. There's no love lost between us from last year at all. We knew it was going to be tough and we both really wanted this game … but we'll use this as motivation to get better. To not let this happen again."
With both sides boasting multiple Division I athletes, the Panthers' Sinnott, who will play at Evansville next year along with teammate Jordan Campbell, was a difference maker. She finished with a game-high 24 points, hurting the Wildcats with five 3-pointers, including one that gave the hosts a bit a breathing room at 43-37 early in the fourth quarter.
Campbell, meanwhile, had 15 points and 10 rebounds and did a solid job on defense against Wildcats center Bryce Menendez.
Like Moon, Wildcats coach Mike Williams is hopeful the loss can prove to be a learning lesson for the program.
"This is a big one," he said. "This is something I know they were waiting for all year. This is something they have been hungry for, but I know our coaches are excited to see how the kids respond."
Myia Starks had 12 points and Megan Keefer 10 to join Moon and give Neuqua three players in double figures on Monday. Menendez added 6 rebounds and also blocked a pair of Panthers shots.
Oswego coach Chad Pohlmann admitted his team was in a search of statement victory and was thrilled to see his girls deliver.
"I feel like we're a top 25 team. I keep saying it," said Pohlmann, whose squad lost a close battle to a ranked Rich South team earlier in the tourney. "We have three Division I players, four starters back and no one in the Chicago area gives us any credit. We won 24 ballgames (last year) and we played tough tonight. We played our style of basketball and we got after it."