Boys basketball: Well-prepared Oswego East handles Naperville North in Class 4A regional semifinal

Wolves will face Benet for title Friday night

Oswego East sophomore Mason Lockett

OSWEGO – Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that can have patience can have what he will.”

While Franklin wasn’t honored on Monday since he was never president, his wisdom was on display at the Class 4A Oswego East semifinal between the host Wolves and Naperville North on Wednesday night.

Oswego East moved the ball patiently and was rewarded for its composure against the Naperville North zone, scoring the first seven points of the game and never trailing in a 55-35 victory.

The Wolves (21-10) advance to Friday’s regional title game against Benet, a winner in the earlier regional semifinal against Plainfield East.

“The boys have really paid attention to detail throughout these past 7-8 days we’ve practiced,” Wolves coach Ryan Velasquez said. “It was a long layoff, but I thought we needed it. We just had to focus on being disciplined, on the defensive end, but also on the offensive end because with the way they play, we couldn’t settle.”

Jehvion Starwood and Torrin Ross accounted for the only two 3-pointers by the Wolves, and they came in the first half.

“I thought a few times we did (settle), but for the most part we really moved the ball,” Velasquez said. “We made the defense move side to side and got the ball in the middle. The objective was to get the ball in the middle because I always tell the guys, pass the ball until you get the third great shot that’s really close to the basket.”

As pestering as the Huskies zone could be, the Wolves were ready for it. The teams played each other earlier this season, but that was on the night before Thanksgiving, over 90 days ago. The Huskies won 54-42 behind 13 points from its leader Luke Williams, but last month an injury ended his season.

“We prepared for this,” Oswego East sophomore Mason Lockett said. “We had eight days of practice for this and we knew if we shot 3s like last time we weren’t going to win so we did whatever it took to win and move on.”

It took practicing how to cope with added defensive pressure.

“In practice we would go blue against white and they would put like seven or eight players (on the court),” he said. “So you had to really find the gaps to pass through. I think that helped us because going against five is way easier than going against seven or eight.”

Naperville North (14-17) hung with the Wolves early, pulling to within 11-7 after Bryce Welch’s 3-pointer early in the opening minute of the second quarter.

The Wolves responded with a 14-5 run to close the half, getting their final basket through fine passing which ultimately helped them pull away. Dribbling at the top of the key, Starwood found Andrew Pohlman in the lane who then dished to Andrew Wiggins for the easy layup and a 25-12 lead.

“We talk about putting teammates first,” Velasquez said. “It means we’re playing for each other, playing unselfishly, and it means that you care so much about your teammates, and when you play a team like this, you have to really buy into that and I thought they really did.”

Wiggins led the Wolves with 16 points, Lockett added 10 points and eight rebounds, Noah Mason scored 10 points, Pohlman scored four points and grabbed eight rebounds and Starwood had nine points, five rebounds and fun.

“I call this fun,” Starwood said. “This is what I play basketball for, Moments like these, crowds like these. Being able to play in front of all these fans, a crowd that’s on our side, even a crowd that’s against us, but crowds like this and times like this are what I play basketball for.”

Even when this typically fast-paced game isn’t so.

“It takes patience from a whole lot of grown men,” Starwood said. “Everybody on this team had to have the same mind and I think our coaches have prepared us enough for that.”

Bryce Welch led the Huskies with 15 points, Cole Arl had 8 points and another senior, Jack Kallstrand, had 6 points, but the biggest number of the night for the Huskies was 13 as in 12 senior players and one senior team manager.

“We’re all friends so it’s just us talking together and being at school and being able to hang out with your friends,” Williams said. “These are guys who have been together since seventh grade. They are some of my best friends so we’ve been together for a long time which is just really great.”

Naperville North clawed its way back to within 31-22 after Arl’s offensive rebound and basket with 2:34 left in the third quarter, but after a Mason dunk with 5:29 left to play they were suddenly down 42-25. The season was running out.

“Really, really proud of our group of kids,” Huskies coach Gene Nolan said. “I’m not sure I’ve been around a group that dealt with more challenging times, but that’s life and I’m just so proud of our team and the way they always stuck together. Never gave up.”