On Saturday, Jan. 26, Oswego High School hosted the ninth annual Communities Against Cancer event. Aside from tons of basketball, there were plenty of raffles and fundraisers taking place to help raise money for Pediatric Cancer research. With this bigger purpose hanging above both Oswego (14-7) and Yorkville (6-15), the varsity boys hit the floor.
The Panthers came out swinging and opened the game on a 22-3 run. That domination would continue throughout the game and would eventually lead the Panthers to victory.
The Panthers were propelled early by Senior Dylan Engler. He set the tone for the evening, nailing three shots from beyond the arc in the first quarter as a part of his 13-point first.
“He’s got himself in a good place in between the ears,” Panther head coach Chad Pohlman said about his star guard. “He’s confident in what he’s doing.”
Engler has been the key to this team all year. Where he goes, the team goes. His great play has pushed the squad on this stretch of wins in eight of their last ten contests dating back to winter break.
“He’s doing a lot of different things. Inside, outside, transition, and his defense,” Pohlman said. “Dylan does a lot of really good things and he’s having a fantastic stretch.”
Engler’s game has really grown in his three years as a varsity player. He set his reputation as a shooter early on in his career and has since expanded his game to reach other aspects, such as ball handling, assists, and defense.
“If I stayed on that course, I don’t really think I could be the player that I am today,” Engler said. “You can’t just be one dimensional, getting two or three dimensional is important.”
All dimensions were on display last night as Engler went for 21 points to go along with five rebounds and two assists, and he, just like most of the regular rotation players, didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, thanks to the huge lead the Panthers had built.
Scoring wasn’t the only fun that fans were treated to Saturday evening, as junior Connor McCance hosted a block party in the paint.
McCance had two emphatic blocks in the first half that sent not only the ball flying out of bounds, but got fans out of their seats.
“When he can rim protect like that, it allows us to use our athleticism out on the perimeter defensively,” Pohlman said about the emerging center.
He finished with three blocks.
“That momentum just kills the other team,” McCance said. “They all just hang their heads down and their like ‘I don’t wanna drive down the lane if he’s going to do that.’ It just brings so much energy to [ our ] team.”
McCance wasn’t just putting in work on the defensive end; he got it done for the offense too, as he posted a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists.
McCance has grown so much this season alone. At the start of the year he was so-so from the free throw line and had a shooting range that restricted him to the paint. Since then, he’s started to develop a mid-range game, especially along the baseline, and has become a much more consistent free throw shooter.
“I got that confidence back,” McCance said about his rapid growth as a player. “Before last game I was working with Cal and A.J. in the post, getting more confidence, and I feel that confidence is starting to show in the games a lot where I’m not too worried about shooting a free throw because I know I’m going to make it.”
That confidence led to a milestone as the 6-feet-9-inch center notched his first varsity dunk.
“We been waiting on that,” Pohlman joked.
“I think I missed a dunk against Plainfield South and that got to me,” McCance said. “Now everyone was telling me ‘you got to get a dunk this game’ and I knew I just had to get one at least.”
Oswego led by as much as 25, and after a garbage time push from the Foxes, would go on to win by the 66-58 score.
Stat leaders for Oswego included junior Kobe Adams who had 13-3-3 night. Junior Jack Kahoun had five points, and junior Joey Niesman had three points, five boards, and three assists.
The Foxes were kept afloat by senior Mason Klaa, who lead all scorers with 24 points along with two boards and three assists. Klaas had four times as many points as the next highest scorer for the Foxes, who had just six.
The Panthers outrebounded the Foxes 30-16 and had six more assists (18-12).
Oswego’s next matchup is Friday, when they travel to Romeoville to take on the Spartans.