BOYS BASKETBALL: The Oswego Panthers basketball team (18-10, 8-7 in the Southwest Prairie Conference (SPC)) dropped its sixth straight game to the Yorkville Foxes (12-16, 4-11 SPC) 49-44 at home, on the Panthers’ senior night, Friday, Feb. 21.

During the Panthers’ six-game losing streak, senior guard Jack Kahoun has been out with a lower body injury. Throughout the season, Kahoun has played a large role in the Panthers’ offensive success, especially late in games. Without Kahoun, the Panthers have struggled at times to get their offense going, something that was evident late in the game against Yorkville.

The Panthers began senior night behind one of the loudest crowds of the season. The crowd made their presence known in the first twenty seconds of the game when senior guard Joey Niesman netted a first possession three. 

“Great atmosphere for tonight,” Niesman said. “It’s definitely like a rush of energy when you first go out there and you realize how big is. And when you score, [the crowd] definitely lifts you.”

Niesman would be the story of the Panthers offense in this game as he scored a career high twenty-four points. Other than Niesman, senior guard Kobe Adams was the only other Panther to score in the first quarter. 

Before Niesman and Adams were able to get in rhythm, both teams played sloppily. The score was 3-3 halfway through the first quarter with no field goal attempt by either team that were inside the three point arc. With about three minutes left in the quarter, Adams started to cook. He nailed two elbow jumpers in a row to give the Panthers a 7-3 lead. 

At the two minute mark, senior forward Sterling Sullivan checked in for his only action of the night. Although Sullivan was only able to get one shot up during his time playing, the crowd erupted with chants of  “Sterling! Sterling! Sterling!” as he checked into the game. These kinds of crowd chants are what senior night is all about: Paying homage to students who are suiting up for the last time in front of their home crowd.

At the same time Sullivan checked in, so did Yorkville’s offense. The Foxes fought back to make it a one point game until the final possession of the first half, when Adams knocked down a buzzer beating step back jumper that gave the Panthers a 14-11 lead heading into the second.

Adams’ buzzer beater along with the energizing crowd gave the Panthers enough momentum to get out to a 23-15 lead. This lead would last for the rest of the quarter– although it dwindled down from eight to five– as the Panthers headed into half up 28-23.

Niseman and Adams led the way in the first half scoring fifteen and eight points respectively.

AJ Freund waits for a pass in the corner of the court as Yorkville defends.
Senior guard AJ Freund (20) stands in the corner as the Panthers set up the offense. Credit: Mario Rios, 42Fifty.

The Foxes came out in the second half bombing away from beyond the arc. The three ball and a few defensive breakdowns led to the Foxes taking their first lead of the night with about two minutes left in the third quarter. However Niesman wouldn’t stay quiet, he answered the three that gave Yorkville the lead with his own three pointer, effectively beginning a three point contest between the foxes and Niesman that would carry over the beginning of the fourth quarter. The contest was won by Niesman: Yorkville knocked down a three on the fast break followed by Niesman drilling two consecutive threes without an answer. Eventually, Niesman gave up the back and forth with Yorkville for a wide open corner three drained courtesy of senior guard Kevin House. The Panthers led 38-37 at the end of the third quarter and 44-37 after the back to back threes by Nisman and House.

After the Panthers’ three point barrage the crowd went wild once more, the Foxes took a timeout to try to compose themselves. Compose themselves they did as the Foxes went on an 8-0 run securing a 45-44 lead with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Yorkville defense stymied the offense of the Panthers for the rest of the game as the Niesman and House threes were the only points the Panthers scored in the fourth quarter. 

“We just stopped scoring… Yorkville ran some good plays… [and] we need to play better defense,” Coach Pohlmann said.

The Foxes came out on top 49-44, finishing the game with a 12-0 run.

During this six game losing streak the Panthers seem to slow down late in games, something that isn’t uncommon in a long toiling season like those of highschool basketball.

“We just [have to] get our intensity back as a whole team,” Adams said.

The Panthers will go on the road to face the Minooka Indians in their High School’s main gym on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m., in an attempt to regain their intensity and close out the regular season with a win.

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