West Chicago's late rally falls short

 
 
Updated 12/28/2021 6:10 PM

For a little over 3 minutes, La Salle-Peru played lights-out basketball, and as was the case for most of the game on Tuesday against West Chicago, Josh Senica was the catalyst.

Senica scored the first two buckets of what turned into a pivotal 15-0 run late in the second quarter as the Cavaliers knocked off the Wildcats, 68-60, in the second round of the Chuck Dayton Classic in DeKalb.

 

"He has the ability to do that night in and night out," La Salle-Peru coach James Cherveny said. "Tonight was his time. He had some nice rebounds, some nice putbacks, a couple and-ones. And it's nice our perimeter guys were finding him though. Sometimes that can go overlooked on how hard a guy works to post up and we never make an effort to get the ball into him."

Senica finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds for the Cavaliers (10-3), who trailed the Wildcats (1-11) 24-20 with 4:24 left in the second quarter.

But that's when Senica connected for a layup in the paint, then got a putback to tie things up. Sean Whitfield, London Cabrera and Ozzie Hernandez made 3s during the run as the Cavs took a 35-24 lead with 1:02 left in the frame.

"Hats off to the way they knocked down the 3," West Chicago coach Bill Recchia said. "They were shooting lights out. And we were closing out on them. It's not like they were uncontested 3s. They shot the ball extremely well and we have to have a response to that. And our response wasn't quite well enough finishing back on the other end."

The Cavaliers had 15 assists on 23 field goals in the game, including four for Carbrera and three for John Riva and Hernandez.

"I think we just got the ball out of the hoop quick, started pushing the tempo a little bit," Cherveny said. "The pace became ours for about 5 minutes, which led to some layups and wide-open 3s out of transition."

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Hudson Parker scored 21 for the Wildcats while James Kostomiris added 20. Ayden Russo had eight points and five assists along with a team-best four rebounds.

"We knew West Chicago had two pretty good players," Cherveny said. "The Parker kid is pretty good, can shoot the ball. He had 21 points. And [Kostomiris] is a heck of a shooter. We knew we had to defend those guys. But they found ways to get open and really put the pressure on us toward the end there."

The Cavaliers led by as much as 52-35 in the third and led 58-43 with 5:02 left after 3-pointer by Cabrera. But Kostomiris heated up, scoring eight points in the final 4 minutes. He seemingly drained a 3 that would have cut the La Salle-Peru lead to 68-63 with 12 seconds left, but was called for a travel.

"It shows what we're capable of doing," Recchia said of the late run. "What we need to do is put a full focus on 32 minutes of basketball. There can't be any mental lapses. We're young, but this is what, our 11th or 12th game. So you can stop using that excuse of being young and start stepping up and focusing for a whole 32 minutes."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Both the Wildcats and Cavaliers lost in the opening round of the tournament -- West Chicago 69-36 to DeKalb and LaSalle-Peru 56-34 to Yorkville.

Cabrera and Whitfield each scored 15 for the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers will face Belvidere North in a consolation semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, while the Wildcats will face Ogden at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

"We told the kids today with us coming off a loss, West Chicago coming off a loss, both teams were going to be ready to come back," Cherveny said. "It's just who wants it more. It's one of those grit things. I thought we had some gritty moments today."

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