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Larry Motuzis (right) of Hinsdale South goes to the hoop as Scooter Smith of Oswego East defends.| Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Oswego East’s boys basketball team found itself in a battle early in the third quarter of Monday’s Class 4A Oswego East Regional quarterfinal against 19th-seeded Hinsdale South.
The Wolves had hit only 1-of-11 three-point attempts in the first half and Hinsdale South tied the game at 23-23 to start the third quarter.
But the 14th-seeded Wolves finally started to get more quality shots from that point on, and they wound up securing a 64-52 win to advance to Tuesday’s semifinals against third-seeded Neuqua Valley.
“I thought the difference in the second half was that we channeled our energy a little bit better on the offensive end,” Oswego East coach Ron Murphy said.
“We got some drive-and-kick opportunities. We were able to get the ball in the lane. Whenever you can do that, your shot percentage is going to go up, and that happened.”
Oswego East shot 6-of-9 from the arc in the second half and that helped the Wolves (14-13) finally gain some separation. Three-pointers from Manny Contreras and Kendall Dorsey helped open a 42-34 lead late in the third quarter.
Then the Wolves put the game away with a 10-0 run that started in the third and spilled into the fourth, giving Oswego East a 52-36 lead. CJ Vaughan, who struggled to only five points in the first half, scored five of the points in the run. He wound up scoring a game-high 20 points despite the slow start.
“Shooters shoot,” Murphy said. “He has that mentality. The quality of his looks got better in the second half. He let things work a little bit. Instead of being off the dribble, it came off a pass.”
The reason that the Wolves were able to stay within striking distance early on was solid defense and contributions from players other than Vaughan. In particular, Scooter Smith stepped up with 10 first-half points, en route to 15 points total.
“It was definitely the defensive effort,” Smith said. “We probably used more effort on the defensive end than the offensive end. A lot of guys were hustling and closing out on their shooters, because they knocked down some shots in the first half that they weren’t able to hit in the second half. We played composed, got the W.”
Dorsey also scored 15 points for the Wolves. Jerry Stoltz led the Hornets (7-19) with 14 points. Freshman center Barret Benson added 12 points.
“I don’t think it was anything we did wrong in the second half,” Hinsdale South coach Tanner Mitchell said. “I think it was more that they played great. They started knocking down some threes. You shoot 66 percent from the three-point line; you’re going to pull away from most teams.”
The challenge for the Wolves is now one of the western suburbs’ finest teams in Neuqua Valley.
“As good as they are, they’re better defensively than they have been in a long time,” Murphy said of Neuqua. “They defend well and I think that (Western Illinois-bound point guard Jabari) Sandifer really does a good job of controlling the game. That’s a luxury to have a kid that’s like that.”