Westminster goes cold, falls to Luther North
As droughts go, this was California-like.
The Luther North boys basketball team denied Westminster Christian a field goal for 13:31 of the second half in Saturday's 53-40 victory in Elgin, thereby denying the Warriors' bid to clinch at least a share of the Northeastern Athletic Conference title.
"Halftime changed us," said Luther North leading scorer Antonio Amoah, who finished with 20 points.
Westminster Christian (14-5, 7-1) took its last lead, 34-32, on a 3-pointer from the left side by junior Dillon Rejman with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Luther North (14-4, 5-0) subsequently raised its defensive intensity and didn't allow another basket until Westminster reserve Noah Anderson splashed a 3-pointer with 14 seconds to play in a game long decided.
The Warriors made 12 of 21 first-half shot attempts, led by senior Robert Kleczynski's 5-of-7 shooting and 13 points.
In the second half the Warriors committed 9 of their 16 turnovers and shot just 2 of 12 from the floor. Guarded more tightly by Luther North 6-foot-4 center Allen Obazee, Kleczynski was held to 3 second-half points and only 2 shot attempts. He finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds.
"They adjusted to our offense and they just shut us down, really," Kleczynski said. "They played at an extremely high pace and I think it was tough for us to keep up with them at the end there."
Amoah and Steven Zanders defended Westminster Christian leading scorer Sam Carani, limiting him to 5 points in 5 shot attempts.
"I thought Allen Obazee was the biggest factor to our success in the second half," Luther North coach Jason Tucker said. "He really did a great job of slowing down Kleczynski. And Antonio Amoah and Steven Zanders -- to hold Sam Carani, to slow a scorer like that who just scored 1,000 points in his career -- was amazing."
The Wildcats roared back into the lead when Amoah scored back-to-back baskets, assisted both times by Chris Jenkins. It was the start of a 21-1 run that lasted well into the fourth quarter. Amoah scored 12 of the run's 21 points. Jenkins contributed a bucket in transition and a 3-pointer.
"I thought for the first 20 minutes that was a heck of a ballgame out there," said Westminster Christian coach Bruce Firchau, whose team led 29-28 at halftime. "We were playing, I thought, very well. Excellent. We just happened to stall and it just kept snowballing."
The victory gives Luther North control of its own destiny with 4 league games yet to play, culminating with the NAC finale at defending Class 1A state champion Mooseheart on Feb. 12. If the Wildcats win out, the league title is theirs.
Westminster has one NAC game remaining next Friday against Christian Liberty. To gain a share of the title, the Warriors must win that game and hope another NAC team beats Luther North.
"Yeah, it's disappointing but you have to tip your hats to them," Kleczynski said. "They executed and did their stuff. It's a tough loss but it was a good game."
Jenkins and Zanders each finished with 10 points for Luther North. Rejman added 8 points for the Warriors.