Another close finish favors Palatine

 
By Greg Swiderski
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/29/2014 11:35 PM

Palatine withstood a final possession by Oswego to hold on to a 60-59 win in boys basketball touranment play at York on Monday night. The Pirates survived their third consecutive 1-point game with the win.

Elk Grove will be the next opponent for Palatine (8-4), at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Grenadiers defeated Metea Valley 67-57.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We showed a lot of fight tonight," said Palatine coach Eric Millstone. "This game shows how hard our players have worked to get where they are."

The Pirates trailed 51-38 with 1:53 left in the quarter when the comeback happened.

Jovone Stricker hit for a basket and then 2 free throws. Chris Refka nailed a 3 with :36 left to pull the Pirates to within 51-45 as the quarter ended.

Matt Ulrich put in the game winner with :36 left on a 3-foot shot in the lane. R.J. Smith pulled down the key rebound with :38 left on a missed Panthers shot.

Palatine's biggest problem was how to stop Oswego's Zach West. He scored 21 of Oswego's 31 halftime points.

Ulrich was given the key task of cooling down West. It worked, as West was limited to just 5 points in the second half, with those points coming in the third quarter.

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"We had to stop him," said Ulrich. "The biggest thing was for us to take away his catch and shoot. We had to force him to put the ball on the floor to take away his rhythm."

A nip and tuck first half saw the Pirates lead 32-31 at the break on a bucket from Stricker (8 points) as time expired.

Mike Williams' 3-point play with 5:34 left in the game on an assist from Chris Macahon gave Palatine a 54-53 lead.

Brice Robinson (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) traded baskets with Macahon and Williams to give the Panthers a 59-58 lead.

Following Ulrich's basket, Oswego (5-6) used two timeouts to set up plays. With :08 left, West was covered up and passed to Jaylon Jones who then found Robinson. Palatine's swarming defense forced Robinson to juggle the ball and he was unable to get a shot off as the buzzer sounded.

"We thought they would go to West," said Smith. "We put a trap on him and he had to kick the ball out."

"When they called that timeout with :08 left," said Millstone, "I could see smiles on our kids faces. We've been going through these close games a lot and we knew we could stop them. They trusted each other on defense. R J had a good game with points (16), and with rebounds (9). Williams really played strong in the fourth quarter when we needed him."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I worked real hard over the summer to improve," said Smith. "I think I finish better to the rim and my free throw percentage, which was 40 percent last year, is up to 80 percent. We have to play all 32 minutes and continue to play good defense to have a good second half of the season."

Justin Chaney scored 10, Williams 9, and Macahon 8.

Another key to the game was that Palatine scored 15 points off Oswego's 17 turnovers but the Panthers scored just 6 points off of Palatine's 10 miscues.

"I thought that we took care of the ball real well tonight," said Millstone. "It gave us some good opportunities."

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