OSWEGO – When you have two teams that play similar styles, regardless of the sport, it’s usually a pretty good game.
Both teams know how to play against each other because that is what they do every day at practice.
That was the case Thursday night as the Minooka and Bolingbrook girls met in the Class 4A Oswego Regional championship game.
Bolingbrook (17-9) used a big second quarter and held off the Indians’ late charge to claim an exciting regional title with a 56-49 victory.
Having cleared the hurdle of one strong Southwest Prairie Conference opponent in Minooka, the Raiders will face another at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when they take on Plainfield East in the Aurora East Sectional semifinals. Plainfield East stunned favored Oswego East, 51-48, Thursday in the title game at Plainfield East.
One of the outstanding performances Thursday night came from Bolingbrook’s Jahari Smith. The junior scored 15 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, had five blocks and added two steals.
“It was a great team win,” she said. “You just go out there and do what you’re supposed to do for the team. I never think about that stat stuff. We want to win as a team.”
The Raiders led, 27-17, as the third quarter started, but Minooka cut the lead to 35-29 after the third quarter. However, the Raiders outscored the Indians, 7-1, to start the fourth and built a 42-30 lead, and it looked like it was over.
But Minooka (24-4) never gave up, cutting the Raiders’ lead to 49-42 with a minute left. Brooklyn Bachmann then hit a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left to make it 49-45. But Bolingbrook hit the free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
“We have to find ways to overcome starting the game slow,” Bolingbrook coach Chris Smith said. “At this time of year, it is important to start well. If we can control our turnovers and get off to a good start, we can play with anyone. We also have to finish. It’s not over until that clock runs out. We let them back in this game tonight.”
The first half was a tale of two quarters as Minooka had leads of 7-2 and 11-4 in the initial quarter, but that changed quickly as the second quarter began.
With Minooka holding a 14-8 lead after the first quarter, the Raiders’ Gabriella Smith and Arielle McElroy hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Elisha Dunlap made a basket to give Bolingbrook the lead, 16-14, with 6:08 left before half.
Gabriella Smith led the Raiders with 17 points. She said she knew they would be in a battle with Minooka.
“We knew they were good, and then we started out slow, which it seems to happen a lot,” Smith said. “But then we stepped it up, made our free throws and played well the last three quarters.”
Bolingbrook continued to apply the pressure on both ends of the floor in the quarter, which seemed to bother the Indians as they committed eight second-quarter turnovers. After a free throw by Minooka’s Brooklyn Bachmann, Bolingbrook scored the next 11 points to take a 27-15 lead with 2:18 left before half.
Cierra Bachmann finally hit a field goal for the Indians with 2:03 on the clock to make the halftime score 27-17 in favor of the Raiders.
“We fought hard for 32 minutes,” Minooka coach Ray Liberatore said. “At this time of the season, you have to make free throws and layups, and tonight we didn’t do that.”
Minooka ended the night 15 of 28 from the free-throw line.
Brooklyn Bachmann led the Indians with 25 points. She scored 14 of those in the fourth quarter. Cierra Bachmann and Haily Arliss each contributed eight.