MINOOKA — It was as though two separate Oswego squads showed up to Minooka’s south campus on Friday.
The Panthers emerged from the locker room in a serious funk at the outset of the first quarter and again to start the third, but played well enough to crawl back into contention in the latter portion of each half.
Unfortunately for Oswego, neither stretch of improvement was enough to bridge the gap and the visiting Panthers fell to Minooka 46-43.
Minooka guard Jaedon Johnson seized control early with a six-point first quarter that led the home team to its early 14-5 advantage heading into the second period. He went a bit cold in Minooka’s lackluster second, failing to score in its four-point quarter.
The Panthers seized their opportunity and pushed back to within two points to close the half, trailing 18-16, but another suboptimal frame to start the second half — and another seven points from Johnson — saw Minooka pull away for a second time.
Oswego’s Dylan Engler had a similar two-period stretch to Johnson’s first half. in the quarters that flanked the halftime intermission. Engler ignited for seven of the Panthers’ 11 second quarter points to spearhead his team’s first rally, but failed to notch a single point in the third.
Engler bounced back with another seven points in the fourth and finished with a game-high total of 16, while Jack Kahoun knocked down a pair of big 3-pointers to aid the last-ditch push. But it wasn’t quite enough to complete the comeback and Minooka held strong to improve its record to 3-4 on the season.
“They say nothing ever comes easy and in a really good conference, you’ve got to play the entire 32 minutes to win a basketball game,” said Minooka head coach Kevin Cain following his squad’s second conference victory in as many games. “We struggled at times, but at the end of the day our kids fight."
The win is a significant one for Minooka. It preserves their unblemished conference record and comes against an imposing foe that entered play at 6-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play.
Though its overall record still sits a game below .500, a resilient win against a strong Oswego program could serve as a pivotal point in Minooka's schedule.
"You love kids that come to the gym with passion and energy. Who want to compete and continue to get better," Cain said. "If you come out determined to win each day, you end up winning some games like we did today against a quality opponent. They were 6-2 and have beaten some quality teams.
"So that's something we can hang our hat on and feel confident that the hard work is paying off."
On the other hand, Oswego head coach Chad Pohlmann's disappointment was readily evident following a disappointing loss to a team the Panthers seem to feel they would have beaten if their normal effort was there.
"It was a terrible game for Oswego," Pohlmann said. "We played absolutely terribly. Give all the credit tonight to Minooka, but we only played about four minutes of basketball tonight and that was the final four minutes of the fourth quarter. We had no idea what we were doing, where we we going or what we were supposed to do with the ball.
"That was not our team out there. Give Minooka total credit. They executed, they made shots and hit their free throws down the stretch," he added. "We'll have to watch the tape and discuss things between our staff. I don't know if it was with our lineup or what the problem was. I don't know. We were coming off a couple of wins in a row where we didn't play well, but we still got the win, but tonight they just kind of caught us sleeping."