OSWEGO – Mekhi Lowery understands what his physical limitations are as much as he realizes the advantages he has over other guards.
What Oswego East’s lanky 6-foot-5 junior lacks in strength, he more than makes up for with length. He’s also crafty, with an assortment of moves in the lane.
Lowery had them on full display Friday.
He scored a season-high 26 points, almost all of them coming in the paint or at the free-throw line. The Wolves needed a huge effort from Lowery and Patrick Robinson, who scored 21 points, in rallying from nine points down in the second half to beat Minooka 69-59 in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
Lowery and Robinson each had two baskets in a decisive 10-0 run that turned a 52-46 Minooka lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter into a 56-52 Wolves’ advantage with 4:49 left.
“I can be very versatile. I can play in the paint, and on the outside,” said Lowery, who also had 10 rebounds, shot 10-for-13 from the floor, and made six free throws. “I know I’m not the strongest but I can use my length around the rim. I definitely felt I had an advantage there tonight.”
Oswego East (6-0, 2-0) needed it to overcome a feisty effort from Minooka (3-2, 1-1), which led most of the way. The Indians led 18-9 after a quarter, by as many as 11 in the second quarter, and by nine at 44-35 with 3:43 left in the third quarter on a three-point play by Nicholas Andreano.
Lowery’s shot in the lane with 5:31 left gave Oswego East its first lead of the game, 54-52.
“Minooka is a good team, a well-coached team, we knew we had our work cut out for us,” Oswego East coach Ryan Velasquez said. [Point guard Ricky] Hill can get downhill on you and they have some guys who can shoot it. You have to pick your poison.”
Indeed, Trevor Hudak and Preston Van Pelt each hit three of Minooka’s seven three-pointers and both scored a team-high 13 points, and Hill had 12 points, five rebounds and four steals.
Hill, a sneaky quick 5-foot-10 senior, has put up some huge games early this season, and Oswego East struggled to contain him off the dribble throughout the first half. But the Wolves drew two charges on Hill in the first minute of the third quarter, and held him scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“Ricky wasn’t able to get to the cup. They took him away from the paint like he had been getting to the first few games,” Minooka coach Kevin Cain said. “They made it really hard on him and that’s what good teams do. We had kids step up and make plays. We just couldn’t control that last wave of a run that they went on.”
And the Indians had no answer in the lane for Lowery and the 6-foot-5 Robinson.
The two Wolves used their size and athleticism to overpower the Indians on shots at the rim, rarely forced the action, and when they missed they followed their own shot. Lowery and Robinson combined for 18 points in the fourth quarter and attempted 18 free throws for the game, making 13.
Velasquez would like to see more of it.
“Both those guys are really talented players,” Velasquez said. “When those guys play together and they can get it working downhill we’re pretty dangerous and when we attack the glass. Proud of their effort and the way they played together. Hopefully it continues to grow in the right direction.”
DeVon Oregon added 13 points for Oswego East, with a runout with 5:59 left tying it at 52-52. Lowery preceded it with a nifty up-and-under move, just one of the shots in the lane that he showcased while rarely settling for perimeter attempts.
“He is playing with great confidence right now,” Velasquez said. “You could tell tonight that he wanted it and he was being aggressive with the basketball. That’s what we need out of Mekhi Lowery.”
Cain needs four quarters from his Indians, and got three-fourths of it Friday in nearly pulling off a big road win at one of the SPC favorites. Adrien-Lawrence Manning scored all 10 of his points in the first half as Minooka led 34-33 at halftime, and the Indians held Oswego East scoreless the first 4:07 of the third quarter.
“We won the first three quarters and that’s a testament to the work that they have put in,” Cain said. “Now it’s how do you finish. How do we get better and clean up the things we can work on and match up for four quarters.”