With Chicago Christian averaging 90 points a night, the Oswego East boys basketball team was satisfied with holding the Knights to just 22 in the first half.
A strong defensive effort helped key an impressive offensive burst that turned a 37-32 deficit into a 16-point lead in Monday’s opening game of the East Aurora Holiday Tournament. Oswego East’s Tahj Oliver hit a free throw and the final field goal of the third quarter to spark a 21-0 run that lasted well into the fourth quarter and lift the Wolves to a 64-52 victory.
“He’s our energy guy,” Oswego East coach Steve Szymanski said of Oliver. “If nothing else, he gets us hyped up and ready to play. That’s one thing about this group; they don’t like to lose. When they’re down and their backs are against the wall, they’ll push and fight to the end.”
Oswego East (8-1) has now won eight straight games after a season-opening loss to West Aurora.
“We wanted to make sure we denied their key players,” Oliver said. “That’s how you get steals and can frustrate them. We picked up on their offense pretty quick.”
Despite the hot shooting of Chicago Christian guard Malik Parker (24 points), Oswego East never let the Knights build a double-digit lead. Stephon Harris (18 points) and AJ Hughes got things started early and combined for 11 points in the first half and Trent Taylor (13 points) hit a three-pointer to bring the Wolves with two, 22-20 before halftime.
Chicago Christian (5-5) built a 30-24 lead in the third period, but Harris converted in the paint and Derek Dorsey hit a three-pointer for a 32-29 game. After another Knights’ bucket for a 37-32 score, Oswego East’s defense shut down Chicago Christian for nearly six minutes.
“Kijana [Caldwell] did a good job on [Parker]. He had a couple shots early and KJ said he’d take him,” Szymanski said.
Taylor opened the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws to tie the game at 37, Oliver (13 points) knocked in seven more points and Oswego East’s lead swelled to 53-37. Parker ended the drought with 3:13 left in the game, but Chicago Christian could never get back in the game.
Kijana Caldwell put in six straight points for the Wolves down the stretch to maintain Oswego East’s control of the game and the 12-point win.
“I knew we had eight stops in a row, and that’s something we’ve been focusing on at practice,” Szymanski said. “Our goal is to get a stop and then get a score, and when you can do that eight times in a row, it’s pretty impressive. They’re a good team. ... They’ve scored 95, 100 and 97 in their last three games. When we needed to, we got the stops.”
Oswego East continues through pool play with games against Joliet Catholic and Neuqua Valley before championship play closes out the tournament on Dec. 29.