It’s difficult to find the right words that give Friday night’s East Aurora Sectional Championship between the Oswego East Wolves and the Bolingbrook Raiders due justice.
In a game that saw 14 lead changes, and included a first half in which the largest margin was just four points, Bolingbrook prevailed for the 66-64 victory.
The most anticipated matchup of the night was between All-Area players in Drake recruit and Bolingbrook star Joseph Yesufu, and Boise State recruit Oswego East’s Ray J. Dennis.
Despite stellar play from both, Yesufu’s 16 points and Dennis’ 18 point, five rebound, five steal and five assist performance, the game was truly a team effort by both squads as several players on both sides hit big shots time and time again.
The first quarter set the tone and pace for the game as both teams used their quickness to offset the other’s defensive scheme. Thanks to Bolingbrook’s Darius Buford 10 first quarter points the Raiders held a 17-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Continuing the back and forth affair, the two teams battled every offensive possession, and constantly exchanged baskets.
Neither team was able to pull away as the score was tied at seven different points throughout the quarter, the last coming from a Yesufu corner three as time expired.
As the second half commenced, Bolingbrook put on a display that proved why they earned the top seed in the sectional, scoring 14 points in the opening four minutes of the half, to give them their largest lead of the game at 50-43.
Oswego East head coach Ryan Velasquez called a much need timeout to slow things down, which turned out to be a wise decision as the Wolves went on their own 8-2 run to regain the lead after a nifty running one hander in traffic by Oswego East guard Demari Grant.
Going into the final quarter knotted up at 53, a costly opening minute from Oswego East forced them to burn two early timeouts.
Though Bolingbrook were never quite able to pull away, Buford put the raiders up for good when he snuck behind Oswego East’s defense for an easy bucket.
Oswego East continued to battle away, but ultimately the Bolingbrook backcourt were able to play keep away for over two minutes, retaining possession while taking valuable time off the clock.
The Wolves were never able to get anything going offensively during the final minutes, partially due to Bolingbrook using their banked fouls to prevent Oswego East from taking good looks at the basket.
Oswego East did manage to get one final look at the buzzer for the upset win, but Grant’s deep three point attempt hit the rim and bounced out, ending the Wolves historic run.
With the loss, Oswego East ended the season, 24-8 and despite the always disappointing end, Coach Velasquez recognized the accomplishments of this year’s team: “It was a memorable season, so much to be proud of. We made school history by advancing to the Sectional championship for the first time in school history. It was a remarkable run and the program is going in the right direction.”
Bolingbrook improved to 23-7 and will travel to Normal on Tuesday to face reigning state champion Belleville West and their star EJ Liddell for the Super-Sectional title and the chance to play in Peoria.