Wheaton Academy makes just enough shots to win
Wheaton Academy shot 40 percent for the game, 24 percent from 3-point range -- and will gladly take it.
The Warriors will gladly take it because their man-to-man defense forced Marengo into even tougher straits before the offense turned it up a notch.
Forcing 2-of-27 first-half shooting and 25 percent for the game, No. 3 seed Wheaton Academy beat No. 2 Marengo 50-40 Friday in the Class 2A Aurora Central Catholic regional final, the Warriors' first regional title since 2011.
"We made it to the regional final last year and we came up short on our home court, so we just wanted to come out, give it our all," said senior guard Tobi Sonuga, who scored 7 points with 4 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and a fourth-quarter steal.
"When we lock in and we all trust each other we can't really be stopped. We're really confident right now."
Wheaton Academy (22-10) will need that swagger for Tuesday's Genoa-Kingston sectional semifinal. It plays No. 1 seed Timothy Christian, a 58-57 overtime winner over regional host St. Joseph.
Wheaton Academy is 0-2 this season against Timothy.
"I just told them, hey, this is when it gets fun," said Warriors coach Steve Thonn. "Every game from now on there's more excitement, more fans, more everything. It's just a great experience. I'm just glad that we're able to pull it out, and now we're into sectionals."
It was no gimme. Marengo (27-4) missed all 14 of its second-quarter shots yet trailed just 15-14 at halftime by making 8 of 10 free throws.
"I thought we got a little, I don't know, shot-happy there just trying to find one to go down somewhere and we weren't being steady in getting our looks," said Marengo coach Nate Wright. "But to go in down 1 at halftime it's like, if we come out and shoot any better in the second half, we should win this ballgame."
Marengo did -- but so did Wheaton Academy, 11 of 19 in the second half.
Early in the third quarter J.D. Rienow made a 3 from the left baseline, converted a putback then stole the ball back, leading to Max Scharnowski's reverse layup. The 7-point burst built a 25-16 lead.
"We always say that we're a third-quarter team," Rienow said. "In the locker room coach told us, 'Hey, listen, we're doing a good job, our defense is locking down, we're just missing shots. We've just got to come out, do our thing.'"
Marengo ace Matt Volkening finally got going with 8 of his game-high 16 points in the third quarter, but Christian Pares' late lay-in and 3 helped Wheaton Academy lead 35-31 after three quarters.
Marengo rallied from another 9-point deficit to within 44-40 with 2:20 remaining. Pares, Sonuga and Bryson Mitchell made six straight free throws to close it out.
"We just couldn't get over the hump," Wright said.
Scharnowski led Wheaton Academy with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Marcus Bult scored 12 points with 7 boards, and Pares scored 11 points.