West Aurora's comeback bid falls just short
Kobe Adams admitted that it felt strange walking into the West Aurora gym Friday as a visitor.
All that mattered was walking out a winner.
Adams, Oswego's senior guard, transferred from West Aurora before his junior year. This marked his first return.
He delivered in the clutch. Adams scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, and Oswego held on for a 52-49 Southwest Prairie West win to remain unbeaten.
"I'm close with most of the players on (West Aurora), so it was fun to play them," Adams said. "I felt strange at the beginning, but I got over it. Focus on winning. They played a pretty good game, but we got enough stops down the stretch."
Indeed, Oswego (6-0, 2-0) made just enough plays against a West Aurora (1-5, 0-2) team hungry for a win in its home opener.
The Panthers missed three free throws, including two front ends of one-and-ones, in the last 1:21. But Kevin House made a huge steal on an inbounds, leading to an Adams basket, for a 49-46 lead with 42 seconds left.
"They (West Aurora) are not as bad as their record indicates, and they were fired up to play in their home opener. We expected them to play well," Oswego coach Chad Pohlmann said. "Kevin was great with that steal, and kind of redeemed himself for a missed free throw. That's the spirit we got going right now."
West Aurora lost its fifth straight, but had two shots for the tie in the last minute. Axel Motolo missed a 3-pointer after Adams' basket. Jack Kahoun split two free throws for Oswego with 6.6 seconds left, and Kelvin Balfour's heave from beyond the arc was short as time expired.
"We had some nice looks, had an unfortunate turnover on the out of bounds play," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said, "but we had a couple good looks. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. I'm happy with how the boys played. That's a really good team we went up against."
Connor McCance added 14 points and Joey Niesman nine for Oswego. Kenneth Dyson scored 10, Motolo nine and Balfour seven for West Aurora.
Adams has been the catalyst to Oswego's fast start. He averaged 23.3 points in four tournament games last week. He had a sweet steal and three-point play over Balfour to end the first quarter with Oswego ahead 10-7, but sat the whole second quarter with two fouls.
He was money when it mattered, though.
Adams scored 14 of Oswego's 15 fourth-quarter points, all but two free throws in the final minute on hard drives to the basket.
"My shot wasn't falling today, pull-up wasn't falling, so get to the bucket was my mindset," Adams said. "I just had to forget about the first half and focus on winning."
With Adams taking the lead, Oswego never relinquished a 37-32 lead it took into the final quarter.
"He just took over in the fourth quarter, and he wanted to win," Pohlmann said. "I'm sure he was highly motivated tonight. He's just in a real competitive mindset right now. And that's what you got to have. He made some really tough baskets for us."
McCance, a 6-foot-8 senior, scored nine of his 14 points in the second quarter on a series of moves around the basket. His jump hook gave Oswego a 20-13 lead midway through the second, and two free throws made it 22-18 at half. Niesman scored seven of his nine in the third quarter, his steal and free throws giving the Panthers their biggest lead at 35-25.
"Connor kept us going in the first half, he made a lot of plays and was confident with the ball. That's the kind of activity we need from him," Pohlmann said, "and then Joey I thought third quarter was fantastic. He made plays all over the place, defensively was fantastic, was getting to the rim."
Balfour, like Adams, sat the entire second quarter with two fouls -- but other Blackhawks stepped up in his absence.
Christian Nieves' second of two 3-pointers gave West Aurora its only lead, 23-22, with 7:03 left in the third quarter, before Adams answered with a three-point play. Motolo had two dunks in the first minute of the fourth quarter to spark the Blackhawks.
"I really liked how Kenny Dyson played tonight, I thought Chris Nieves was outstanding the entire game, I thought Logan Mont did a great job handling pressure," Johnson said. "There's definitely stuff to build off of. We just have to turn them into wins."