OSWEGO – Oswego coach Chad Pohlmann was sipping his morning coffee Tuesday when Joey Niesman strolled up to him.
"Just got 200 shots up coach," Pohlmann relayed that Niesman, an Oswego senior, told him. "I have to have a big-time performance tonight."
Niesman indeed delivered.
With leading scorer Kobe Adams out sick, Niesman scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds – all while guarding Fresno State recruit Destin Whitaker. Jack Kahoun came through with 24 points and the go-ahead basket in overtime as short-handed Oswego beat Romeoville 65-59 in Tuesday's Southwest Prairie Conference crossover.
Niesman did it all while fighting off cramps that he says bother him "about once every five games." He went to the sidelines late Tuesday to try to rub the pain out, and returned later.
"Forgot to take my cramp pills," Niesman said with a smile. "I was just focusing on getting the win for the team because we were down a few guys. Flu is going around the team. We had to step up as senior leaders."
Adams, averaging over 20 points on the season, has been sick since Saturday, went to the doctor Monday and was home sick Tuesday. Pohlmann expects to get Adams back Wednesday, but the rest of the Panthers picked up the slack.
Oswego (17-3, 7-2) led into the fourth quarter, got down six, but pulled out a gritty win.
"Awesome," Pohlmann said. "I thought everybody in the game tonight contributed positively to the win. Romeoville is a pretty talented group that can make a lot of plays."
Kahoun scored 13 points in the first half to get Oswego to a 28-20 halftime lead, missed six straight shots, but was clutch late with 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
With 3:28 left in regulation Kahoun hit a deep 3-pointer from the right wing, was fouled and converted the four-point play for a 47-46 Oswego lead. In overtime Kahoun's off-balance driving layup gave Oswego the lead for good, 55-53, with 2:28 left.
"That was just a big-time move," Pohlmann said. "I think that took the sails out of [Romeoville] a little bit."
"We huddled and I said 'We got one more quarter to do this, in overtime,'" said Kahoun, who shot 9-for-21 with four 3-pointers and also had seven rebounds. "We were all dead in the water tired, I didn't come out of the game one time, but I just put that aside and acted like I just came in the game."
Romeoville (13-11, 8-3), who had been off for a week, looked it early with seven turnovers in the first quarter. But the Spartans closed within 37-34 after three quarters, and took their first lead of the game, 39-37, with 6:50 left on Keedan Foster's three-point play.
Whitaker, who scored 18 points on 5-for-17 shooting, gave Romeoville its biggest lead at 43-37 with a 3-pointer with 5:50 left.
"We looked like a team that had been off for a week early, I thought the fourth quarter we played great basketball, we had them down four, we just made a bad lapse on defense and gave up [Kahoun's] four-point play," Romeoville coach Marc Howard said. "We get that stop, we're shooting free throws, we might have a chance to ice the game. To me, that was the game."
The Spartans missed their first 10 shots of overtime, including Whitaker's corner three for the lead with 1:05 left.
Foster, who had 13 points, hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left for Romeoville's first field goal of overtime.
"They got ahead, and we kind of panicked," Howard said. "You got Destin Whitaker shooting a three down two, you live with that. He's shooting darn near 41% from the three. We just let one get away. Credit to Oswego, They were resilient all night."
Indeed the Panthers are, and Niesman added another notch to his belt as a defender.
Oswego's 6-foot-2 senior held Neuqua Valley Division I prospect John Poulakidas to seven points earlier this season, and limited Poulakidas in the rematch that Oswego won two weeks ago. This time it was Whitaker, a 6-foot-5 Division I recruit, who went scoreless in overtime.
Niesman, also a starter in football, has made it clear the he wants to play basketball at the next level – and Pohlmann thinks he has a place anywhere.
Niesman, averaging a tick over 10 points per game on the season, scored eight of his 26 in overtime.
"He is just an absolute warrior," Pohlmann said. "He does everything on the floor, he plays unbelievable defense, he's tough as nails. He's a throwback kid that competes and just plays for the team."