Oswego East pulls away late from West Aurora
The old adage is that it's hard to beat a team three times in a season.
How about four?
Oswego East had to battle but the Wolves defeated West Aurora for the fourth time this season, 56-43, on Friday night in the Class 4A Lockport Regional championship game.
Ryan Johnson led a balanced attack with 16 points, including nine points in the fourth quarter as the Wolves pulled away down the stretch.
"I just had to stay aggressive and look for my shot," said Johnson, a 6-foot-7 senior guard. "But we've got four guys that can score, anyone can score.
"But it feels great to win another regional. It's amazing and this season we want to get to Champaign."
It was the ninth straight win for No. 3 seed Oswego East (27-5), which will face No. 2 seeded Bolingbrook, a 50-36 winner over Waubonsie Valley on Friday, on the Raiders' home court on Wednesday in the second semifinal of the Bolingbrook Sectional.
Last year, Bolingbrook defeated the Wolves 52-51 in double overtime in the title game of the Class 4A Oswego Sectional and went on to place fourth in the state.
"In these games, it just comes down to who can get stops and who can run their stuff better," Oswego East coach Ryan Velasquez said. "Possessions matter and we got enough stops on the defensive end."
Leading 36-30 after three quarters, the Wolves certainly valued their possessions to open the fourth quarter. They made all four shots as junior guard Jehvion Starwood (14 points) had a layup, and Johnson got a steal and a slam. Senior guard Bryce Shoto, who scored nine points, and Johnson added back-to-back three-pointers in a quick 10-3 burst as Oswego East led 46-33 with 6:29 to play in the game.
The Blackhawks (18-15), who rallied to defeat Lockport 57-54 in double overtime in the second semifinal on Wednesday night, never got closer than nine after that. West Aurora, which was led by sophomore forward Terrence Smith (16 points, 9 rebounds) lost to Oswego East in the regional title game for the second straight season.
"Ryan had some big shots for us," Velasquez said. "He played through some early foul trouble and he's capable of scoring like that. It's not easy beating a team three times in a season, let alone four."
Oswego East never trailed. The game was tied twice, at 2-2 and 6-6. Then Oswego East senior guard Mekhi Lowery (11 points) scored six points in an 8-0 run which helped the Wolves to a 14-9 lead after the first quarter. West Aurora closed to 16-11 in the opening minute of the second quarter but that was as close as the margin got the rest of the way. It was 23-15 at halftime.
Six times West Aurora pulled within six points in the third quarter but never crept closer.
"We just had to keep our composure," Starwood said. "It was tough to play a team four times. They have seen us as many times as we've seen them but we're just better. I see a state championship in the future for this team."
At the moment, a regional title is a great thing. It's the third regional title in the past four played postseasons for the Wolves and the fourth (2010 was the other one) since the school opened in the fall of 2005.
The Wolves won the previous three meetings. Those were 69-51 on Nov. 25 in the Hoops 4 Healing Tournament, 61-46 on Nov. 29 in the opening Southwest Prairie conference game, and 62-53 in the second SPC game on Jan. 27 in Aurora.
Joshua Picket (15 points, 4 rebounds) and Calvin Savage (5 points, 5 rebounds), who are both junior guards, contributed for West Aurora, which did have a 31-21 rebounding advantage.
"Oswego East is a very good team," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said. "They went to a 1-3-1 defense and are so long that it was hard to score on them. It's hard to play a team four times and kudos to them for beating us four times. I won't be surprised if they win the sectional."