This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end for Oswego East.
The Wolves had put themselves in position to make a deep postseason run, but host Plainfield East stunned them 51-48 in Thursday's Class 4A Plainfield East Regional final.
Oswego East had beat up on the Bengals during the regular season, winning by 25 and 22 points in two respective matchups. This time, though, they couldn’t get anything going offensively. Plainfield East counteredwith several big baskets, especially down the stretch.
“They played great defensively so we couldn’t get into a good flow of things,” Wolves coach Abe Carretto said. “We had a lot of balls in and out or around the rim. We had a ton of looks inside and those shots weren’t falling, and that’s our bread and butter, and our outside shots weren’t falling either.”
Oswego East (24-5) trailed 46-38 with 5:35 left in the game, rallied down the stretch to get within striking distance, but still missed out on multiple opportunities to overcome the deficit.
“We knew they hadn’t been down in a big game all season long so we felt we had a good chance if we could get them in that position,” Bengals coach Tony Waznonis said. “They hit no threes all game. We did a good job of getting them uncomfortable and that was our game plan.”
An offensive foul was followed by a steal and a turnover before Plainfield East’s Ashley Smoldt knocked down a pair offree throws with 48.6 seconds left to make it a 51-46 game.
Jada Boatright’s putback with 32.5 seconds left pulled the Wolves to within 51-48, but they couldn’t get any closer.
The Wolves forced a turnover with 5.4 seconds left so they had a chance to set up a final shot to tie the game, but Jesinde Thomas’ long desperation 3-pointer was off target.
“I felt we were prepared for games likes this with all the other tough games we played, but when someone is shooting better than you and is on their home court, it’s tough,” Carretto said.“Our shots just weren’t falling. We played hard so I can’t fault them for that so it’s a tough one.”
Indiana State recruit Ty Battle picked up her fourth foul with 5:04 left in the game, but managed to stay in the game, scoring a team-high 20 points.
Her free throws with 1:58 left pulled the Wolves to within 49-46 but they’d never get any closer.
“It’s stressful and very difficult when you’re this good of a team and for it to end like this is even harder to swallow,” Carretto said. “This is not what I expected from this group, but it was a tough matchup. I knew if we didn’t shoot well and they did it would be tough. You have to give them credit.”
Ashley Smoldt scored 13 points, Ashley Lewis-Banks 10 and Lotanna Onua 10 for Plainfield East (24-7), which advances to play Bolingbrook in Tuesday's sectional semifinal at East Aurora.
Waznonis said it was the best the Bengals have played all season.
“I guess third time’s a charm,” he said. “We played our best game of the year by far. We adjusted well and our senior leadership showed. They’ve been through it all and were ready for this one.”
Missouri State recruit Sydney Schultz, one of seven seniors playing for the final time at Oswego East, added 12 points for the Wolves.