GIRLS BAKSETBALL: One year ago, the Panthers clinched their first regional championship in girls basketball since 2015. Last night they clinched their second straight with a 46-32 win over Neuqua Valley High School.
The Panthers have had their ups and downs this season, but they are catching fire at the right time. A big part of that push is their senior core, which accounted for all but eight points in last night’s game.
This game, much like the Monday night victory over Oswego East, started very sloppy. Both teams turned the ball over at an astounding pace. The Wildcats notched seven turnovers in the first while the Panthers one-upped them, turning it over eight times in the quarter.
Oswego eventually got things in check, opening up an 11-6 lead behind senior Jenelle Rogers’ seven first-quarter points. Rogers dominated the entire game from the paint, and she set that tone early on in the ball game.
Rogers teamed up with her twin sister, senior Jennah Rogers, to clean up the boards from start to finish.
“Both of them were all over the boards,” Oswego Head Coach John Carlson said. “We couldn’t do this without what they do inside and their defense.”
Rogers sisters’ domination continued into the second quarter, where Jenelle took over the scoring with six more points, and Jennah grabbed every loose ball in sight.
Not to be outdone, four-year varsity team member and starting guard senior Angelina Schlinger distributed the ball offensively all over the court, racking up five assists to go along with two points and a rebound.
“I’ve always been really focused on not only creating for myself but creating for my teammates,” Schlinger said. “It’s easier to hit wide-open shots than contested shots.”
Schlinger has meant so much to the program over the past four years.
“She’s been consistent for us all season, but she does so many other things,” Carlson said. “She’s been a great player all four years.”
The Panthers shored up their turnover issues in the second but continued to pressure Neuqua with a steady dose of a full-court press, which helped to force 13 total turnovers in the first half, and a total of 26 turnovers in the game.
“We got after it tonight,” Carlson said about his team’s defense. “The pressure made it hard; they couldn’t get shots off.”
The Panthers carried a 26-17 lead into the locker room.
The second half provided more of the same. Neuqua would appear to threaten at times, but Oswego would deny the push and pull further away each time. Freshman Mia Moore took over the third, scoring six of her eight total in the quarter, including a fantastic circus and-one shot that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Moore finished with eight points, two rebounds, and an assist.
Jennah also scored the bulk of her points in the third, scoring five of her nine in the third quarter.
The third quarter sealed it, as the Panthers took a commanding 42-26 lead into the fourth and cruised to the 46-32 victory.
Schlinger and the rest of the seniors ended their home game careers with a bang, winning the programs first back to back regional title since 2009-2010.
“We knew when they were younger, they had the potential to do this,” Carlson said. “You still have to go out and perform, and tonight, everyone performed.”
The Panthers were led by Jenelle, who had a double-double at 15-11-1. Jennah had 9-9-1, while senior Julia Henrikson had nine points of her own to go along with four rebounds and two assists. Senior Danielle Dorillio also had three points, one rebound, and one assist.
Neuqua was led by junior Ellie Wisner, who scored 18 points. Junior center Claudia Gallegos collected eight points and snagged nine boards to go along with one assist. Junior Jada Devine had six points and two boards.
Oswego moves on to face Benet Academy in Lisle on Monday, the team that beat Oswego in Super-Sectionals a year ago, and the team Oswego lost a nail biter too early this season in Lisle.
“We played one of the best games we played all season ,” Carlson said. “We’re more prepared to play them then we were last year. They jumped on us last year, and this year, I think the girls realize they can play with them.”
The sectional final will be Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at Benet Academy in Lisle.
“This means a lot to us, to win back to back at home,” Schlinger said. “This is a great way to go out.”