Oswego repeats defeat of Neuqua Valley
Joey Niesman sipped an energy drink, surrounded by teammates videotaping his interview with their phones, and savored a job well done.
Niesman, Oswego's 6-foot-3 senior, takes special pride in defending elite players. Apparently, he's got Neuqua Valley's number.
For the second time this season, the Panthers did a number defensively on the Wildcats. Niesman made life difficult for high-scoring junior John Poulakidas, and Oswego swept a season series by beating Neuqua 54-47 in Naperville.
Niesman in November held Poulakidas to 5 points, and Neuqua scored a season-low 37 points. Poulakidas got 21 Thursday but had to work for every last one.
"I've always loved the challenge of guarding him," said Niesman, who also had 9 points and 7 rebounds. "He's one of the top players in the state. When we play top players like that I feel like it's my job to shut them down."
Niesman gives away 2 inches to the 6-foot-5 lefty Poulakidas, but doesn't give an inch. Poulakidas, who last week dropped in 49 points in a double-overtime win over Bolingbrook, shot 5 for 12 from the field.
Remarkably, Niesman kept him from going off while committing just one foul -- in the game's final minutes.
"I'm pretty explosive, I can jump up pretty high, I'd say I have a pretty nice vertical on me," Niesman said. "It's all about the fast twitch and reaction. I try to get in him a little bit, try to get him uncomfortable."
Oswego (14-3) never trailed again after Neuqua (12-5) scored the first point of the game. Kobe Adams scored a game-high 23 points for the Panthers. Jack Kahoun, who scored 35 last year in a memorable win over Neuqua, scored 11 of his 14 points in the first quarter.
Foul trouble limited Kahoun after that, but his three early 3-pointers were the catalyst to Oswego's 15-6 start to the game.
"One of the most important things about tonight was he came out and he didn't hesitate," Oswego coach Chad Pohlmann said. "He was confident, back to the player we know he's capable of being. That elevates the team."
Oswego led 27-23 at half, and oddly neither team scored for the first four minutes of the third quarter. Neuqua, which had a six-game winning streak snapped, never did take full advantage of 16 Oswego turnovers.
The Wildcats went scoreless the first four minutes of the fourth quarter as well, shot 34% for the game and were held to fewer than 50 points for just the fourth time this season.
Connor Davis added 9 points for Neuqua, but only 2 after the first quarter.
"We were playing hard on the defensive end, I'm really proud of the guys," Poulakidas said. "We just couldn't figure out how to put the ball in the basket."
Two Poulakidas free throws closed Neuqua to 27-25 midway through the third quarter, but Adams answered with a tough baseline drive to start a 7-0 run. Oswego's senior guard, who shot 7 for 14, also stuck a number of midrange shots.
"He's just a warrior," Pohlmann said. "That kid just has a knack for making big-time plays and finishing around the rim. He's had a heck of a season. The midrange game seems to be gone in today's game, but Kobe is bringing it back."
Oswego closed out its third straight win by knocking down 13 of 24 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Pohlmann liked what he saw, after two wins by a combined seven points against two teams with a combined record of 7-28.
"The last few games we've won, but we haven't been really crisp and sharp," Pohlmann said. "We watched tape of our first game with (Neuqua), and it kind of woke them up a little bit. Our bite was back tonight."