Oswego East edges Downers Grove South in final seconds
When she's all alone in a gym, Maggie Lewandowski oftentimes envisions the scenario of shooting free throws with a game on the line.
Practice made perfect Monday.
Lewandowski, Oswego East's sophomore guard, was fouled on a short runner and knocked in the first of two free throws with three seconds left to break a tie with Downers Grove South. It proved the game-winner for the Wolves, who saw an eight-point fourth-quarter slip away but came away with a thrilling 59-58 win in the season opener for both teams at the York Thanksgiving Tournament.
"I kind of thought about it in my head, that this is why I practice," Lewandowski said. "I just took a deep breath. Don't worry about anything else."
Lewandowski was the first girl off the bench as a freshman for Oswego East last season. She appears poised for a much greater role this year for a Wolves' team that lost standout senior guard Riley Doggett to a torn ACL last July.
On Monday Lewandowski scored 15 points, and split a pair of free throws with 1:14 left to tie it 58-58 after Downers Grove South freshman Megan Ganschow had given her team a 58-57 lead with a stickback basket and three-point play.
"I'm so proud of her [Lewandowski]," said Oswego East junior guard Cami Phillips, who scored a team-high 20 points herself. "Her confidence is definitely up, she is doing whatever she needs for the team. She is the reason why we won today."
Senior guard Emily Petring had a spectacular all-around game for Downers Grove South in the loss with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Allison Jarvis added 17 points, seven in the fourth quarter, and 6-foot-1 freshman post Ganschow 14. Another freshman, Desiree Merritt, scored 12 for Oswego East, and hit two of the Wolves' nine three-pointers.
Phillips' fourth 3-pointer with just under seven minutes left put Oswego East ahead 53-45, but Downers Grove South charged back with a 6-0 run sparked by a Jarvis' three-pointer and driving layup. The Mustangs had trailed by 11 on two occasions in the third quarter.
"I told the girls after the game I'm not mad and I'm not disappointed. A lot of teams would have given up, down 10 points two or three times," Mustangs coach Lyndsie Long said. "It says a lot about our character and how much we wanted it."
Petring, a Coastal Carolina soccer recruit, was just a few weeks removed from volleyball season. She put on a show in the first half with 16 of her 21 points, knocking down two 3-pointers, rebounding from her guard position and leading the Mustangs' transition game.
"I had like a weekend break after volleyball season. I love it, love being busy. That's how I roll," Petring said. "I definitely try to rebound as much as I can. I have a really high vertical so it's kind of a plus."
"She plays basketball just during basketball season. She's such an athlete," Long said. "The girl can do it all. She did a great job tonight of not just playing but leading."
Phillips, the most experienced player on a young Oswego East team, scored seven points in the first quarter to stake the Wolves to a 16-11 lead.
And then she really got cooking in the third quarter.
The junior guard buried a deep three-pointer, made a one-handed runner over her shoulder and a defender, then pulled up for a long jumper during a personal 7-0 run to extend Oswego East's lead to 42-31. Her 20 points matched Phillips' career-high from last year's regional semifinal.
"Really, I had no thoughts in my head. Just shoot it," Phillips said of her hot streak. "I was like, 'If I don't make this my coach will be mad so I better make it.' This year I'm focusing on being confident, no matter what."
Holding on to a win like this doesn't hurt.
"It feels really good," Phillips said. "The lead was up, then it went down. But we didn't drop our heads and give up. I'm proud of my entire team for not giving up."