Last week was one of the biggest and best stretches for both the boys and girls basketball teams in a very long time here at Oswego High School. Both teams struggled throughout the 2017/2018 season, winning a combined total of only seven games. However, last week was one of the fastest turnarounds I have seen from any program at any level, ever.
The boys team, led by coach Chad Pohlman, coming off a dismal 4-25 season last year, embarked on what appeared to be a very tough schedule for their Thanksgiving week tournament. Despite the odds and expectations, the Panthers shocked us all.
The Panthers opened the annual “Hoops 4 Healing” tournament, a tourney co-hosted by both Naperville North and Oswego. In their first game, the Panthers notched a blowout victory against Dekalb. They followed that win up with an exciting two point win behind an absolutely unbelievable game from junior Jack Kahoun, who dropped 35 points against Neuqua Valley. The Panthers then battled against traditional basketball powerhouse West Aurora in their third pool play game.
The Panthers gave the Blackhawks a run for their money, mounting a furious second half comeback. The Panthers came within one point of a tie game, but a missed three by Kahoun allowed West to win by three after converting on free throws with .6 seconds left in the game.
After going 2-1 in pool play, the Panthers played in the third place game against Naperville North, who has Loyola-Chicago commit Tom Welch. The game led into overtime, but the Panthers not only took the 61-54 win, they took third place in the tournament.
That’s not the storyline I took from the weekend however. I took that the Panthers, as a team, have turned the corner since last season. Last year’s boys varsity squad won three regular season games. This season, they got three wins in their first week.
Let that sink in.
These boys played in plenty of close games last year but couldn’t quite close them out. This year, they have won two close games and lost one against West Aurora, a game in which the Panthers had multiple opportunities to take the lead, but were unable to capitalize.
The team this year is fun to watch – they bring an energy and a swagger that last years’ roster lacked.
Senior point guard Dylan Engler leads the team along with Kahoun and the big man in the middle, junior Connor McCance. A nice surprise for this team has been junior Joey Niesman. He has come off the bench and has helped to spark runs and helped make the comeback against West Aurora with his tenacious defense and lights out shooting.
Oh yeah Oswego, get excited.
Not to be outdone, the girls squad is playing some of the best basketball this school has seen from any of the girls varsity teams in years. They played in the War Hawk Invite at West Aurora during the Thanksgiving week. They posted a 3-1 record, moving their overall record to 4-1 after they opened the season by beating traditional basketball powerhouse Marian Catholic.
The Lady Panthers defeated Rockford Lutheran in their first game of the tourney, but took a tough loss in their second game against Naperville North. However, first year head coach John Carlson got his team to bounce back in their third pool play game. The ladies defeated one of the host schools, West Aurora, 66-56 in one of the highest scoring affairs of the entire tournament.
Similar to the boys, the girls played in a third place game and took home the W.
Just as I did with the boys varsity, I did not only take away that the ladies won third and are playing great basketball. I took that they too, have turned a corner.
After a 3-23 season a year ago, a season that started with 17 consecutive losses might I add, many people, including myself, were not expecting a whole lot from this team this year.
Boy, was I wrong.
This team is something special. Led by the likes of junior Danielle Dorillio (who made the all-tournament team of the War Hawk Invite, by the way), and by junior Angelina Schlinger, they are a young and explosive team. Each of the starting five, and the first player off the bench, sophomore McKenna Engler, have big point potential every single night. They are a dangerous team that no one wants to come across right now.
Now, that brings me back around to the big question: have the boys returned to the glory and shape of the 2008-2009 state runner up team? Have the girls reached the potential and skill of the 2009-2010 state tournament qualifying team? Is basketball at Oswego High School back in business?
Well, remember when I said that last year the two programs in question combined for a win total of seven, including the playoffs? Well, throughout the first few weeks of this season, they have already combined for that same number.
Through just nine combined games, the boys and girls basketball teams have combined to win a total of seven games, the same number it took them a combined 55 games to achieve last year.
Ladies and gentleman, basketball is back and better than ever at Oswego High School.
At this point, both teams are looking like the great teams of 2008-2009 for the boys, and 2009-2010 for the girls.
Will they live up to the hype? That’s a whole other debate. At this point I’d say yes, but we still have a whole lot of basketball to play.
No matter if they live up to the hype or if they stumble and fall along the way, these teams are going to be very fun to watch throughout the season.
Coach Pohlman states it like it is.
“Got some exciting hoop squads this year!” Pohlman tweeted out Tuesday, Nov. 27. “These guys and girls get after it!”
Exciting they are, and get after it they do.
As of Tuesday, Nov. 27, girls varsity played and defeated Joliet Central 40-38, making their record 5-1, and making the combined win total for this year eight. As I said earlier, basketball is back in business here at Oswego High School.