McGowen, Wheaton North have the last word
Senior Rowan McGowen has many memorable 3-point field goals during three varsity seasons on the Wheaton North boys basketball team.
With time for only one shot and victory at stake in the Class 4A Hinsdale Central sectional semifinals Wednesday, McGowen opted to take a 3.
He nailed it just before the buzzer.
"That was the craziest play, shot of my life," McGowen said. "I still can't believe that went in. I'm kind of speechless."
Just about everyone was dazed about the Falcons' wild 55-53 victory over Hinsdale South -- especially after the Hornets just took a 53-52 lead on senior Karol Lipiszko's 3, prompting the Falcons to immediately call a timeout with 6.2 seconds left.
With five senior starters Wheaton North (24-6), the sectional's No. 6 seed, plays for the sectional title at 7 p.m. Friday against No. 4 Naperville North (24-5), which won both regular-season DuPage Valley Conference meetings by a combined 4 points.
Under the Falcons' basket senior Jack Bennett inbounded to McGowen, who dribbled the length of the court, pump faked to elude a defender and let it fly from the left of the basket.
"Definitely No. 1. That was definitely the best shot I've ever hit," McGowen said. "I looked quickly at the clock. I was just looking for what was open and I felt that was the most open shot available."
McGowen finished with 18 points and one memorable 3. Bennett had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and senior Luke Anthony had 13 points with three 3s and 5 assists.
For No. 10 Hinsdale South (19-12), junior Zion Griffin concluded his breakout season with 20 points and 6 rebounds. Lipiszko had 11 points with two 3s, senior Diamond Anderson had 10 points and senior Nick Perry had 7 assists.
Before Lipiszko's late 3, Wheaton North led since midway through the first quarter but never by more than 7 points and 44-39 with 1:39 left.
McGowen's free throws put the Falcons ahead 51-47 with 32.9 seconds but Griffin answered with his first 3. Anthony sank the second of two free throws with 13.9 seconds for a 52-50 advantage.
The Hornets scored on each of their last eight possessions.
"Give Hinsdale South credit. It took everything to beat that team. Neither team played perfect but both played as hard as they could. It was a great high school basketball game," Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann said.
"I thought (McGowen) might have time to get further towards the rim, but he knows his game. When he's open, he's pretty deadly from 3. I'm glad he made that shot."
The Hornets, who started three seniors, nearly reached their first sectional final after achieving back-to-back regional titles for the first time. Lipiszko, whose early baskets gave Hinsdale South a 5-2 lead, had just hit a last-second 3 Friday to give the Hornets a 44-41 victory over No. 2 Geneva in the regional final.
"We've been lucky to hit a big shot and advance twice and tonight we did it again but tonight they got the last touch. It was a heck of a play (by McGowen)," Hinsdale South coach Brett Moore said.
"There were so many big plays. This is one of the best games most of the people in this gym they've ever seen. At least the best finish. Incredible shot, incredible game. It's just tough to go out that way. I don't think anyone gave us a chance to compete with the top of our conference (entering the season)."
Wheaton North is in a sectional final for the first time since 2002. It's only sectional title came in 1986, when former NFL quarterback Kent Graham starred as a junior.
Five Falcons were on this year's football team, which finished 4-5, one win from playoff eligibility, for the second year in a row. The team lost its regular-season finale at Waubonsie Valley 17-14 on a late field goal.
"We worked really hard and it feels really good to have it finally pay off," said Bennett, also a wide receiver. "We had a plan to get (the inbounds) to Luke and Rowan popped open so I just gave it to him. The rest is history. It was amazing. It just felt really good to win it."
Wheaton North lost at Naperville North 60-57 Jan. 31 and 66-65 Dec. 9 in Wheaton. In Tuesday's sectional semifinal, the Huskies beat No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South 40-35 after losing twice to the Tigers in DVC play by a combined 4 points.
"We know (Naperville North) well. They know us well," Brackmann said. "We'll enjoy this one for a couple of hours and then be ready to go. I'm just happy we get to go to practice."