West Aurora upsets Oswego
Axel Motola lingered on the court at game's end to have a large hunk of ice applied to his right shoulder.
Motola, West Aurora's 6-foot-5 senior forward, hurt his collarbone two weeks ago when a Batavia kid landed on him. He missed last Friday's game against Yorkville, and admitted it hurt to shoot last practice.
"It's getting better," Motola said. "Today I was feeling good. It hurts a little, but it's going to get better."
Motola hurt so good Friday.
He scored eight of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Blackhawks rode a hot-shooting second quarter and a strong finish to their signature win, 68-66 at Oswego in the Southwest Prairie West.
"It's big," said Motola, who also grabbed six rebounds. "We've been losing close games. To win versus this team, a really good team, it means a lot."
Indeed, West Aurora (8-16, 6-7) has lost nine games this season by seven points or fewer, including a 52-49 loss to Oswego in December. But the Blackhawks could be turning the corner. They beat Yorkville last Friday on Kelvin Balfour's halfcourt buzzer-beater, and Friday rallied from five points down in the fourth quarter.
Kenneth Dyson, who scored 14 points, gave the Blackhawks the lead for good, 63-62, with his drive and scoop shot with 2:14 left. Oswego (18-6, 8-4) had one last shot for the win after Balfour missed two free throws with 8.7 seconds left, but Kobe Adams stepped out of bounds on a baseline drive.
"We've been fighting and grinding to get that signature win," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said. "By far this was our biggest win of the year. We have to keep getting better, but I'm proud of our kids' fight tonight."
While West Aurora continues to dig itself out of a slow start to the season, Oswego is in a February rut.
The Panthers' loss was their third in four games, and they've allowed 65.7 points per game in those three. West Aurora's 68 points, in fact, were a season-high. Adams scored 26 points, including a three-point play with 2:35 left to give Oswego its last lead. Connor McCance had 11 points and nine rebounds and Jack Kahoun eight points -- but offense isn't Oswego's issue.
"Our defense is horrible. We're in a bad way right now," Oswego coach Chad Pohlmann said. "The commitment at that end of the floor is killing us."
Oswego led 20-17 after a back-and-forth first quarter, before West Aurora caught fire from 3-point range. The Blackhawks were 7-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half, hit five threes in the second quarter and Dyson scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half with two threes.
Meanwhile, sophomore Isaiah Siler, in his fourth varsity game, continued to open eyes. Siler hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 of his 15 points in the second quarter. Silers' score with 1:58 left in the half gave West Aurora its biggest lead, 38-29, before Oswego ended the half on a 7-0 run.
"He can shoot the three, he's smart, he knows our stuff already after four games and he listens well," said Johnson, also noting the contributions of sophomore Kenyon Weekley. "He's just a smart and savvy kid."
Oswego surged ahead in the third quarter, and led 55-50 with 6:48 left on a 3-pointer by freshman Deakon Tonielli -- but West Aurora grinded it out.
Motola did a little bit of everything, hitting three 3-pointers and repeatedly beating Oswego down the floor for scores in transition. His 3-pointer with 4:15 left tied it 59-59.
"The big guy [McCance] was guarding me, I know I can dribble and I was trying to go to the basket because he's slower than me," Motola said.
"He's playing his best ball of the year," Johnson said of Motola.
Oswego, on the other hand, has six days to regroup before traveling to Oswego East next Friday for a showdown with the SPC West leader.
"We can't lose like that on the home floor if we're trying to vie for a top three or four sectional seed and win a conference championship. I'm very disappointed," Pohlmann said. "We're going to take a couple days off and come back. It's a long practice week and we need it."