JOLIET – After a sluggish start, the Joliet West boys basketball team beat Southwest Prairie Conference foe Oswego East, 68-49, on Tuesday night.
West (15-1, 6-0) came into the game atop the conference and East (10-5, 4-2) was third, with its only conference loss to Joliet Central last Friday.
Leading only 11-10 after the first quarter, the Tigers fell behind the Wolves, 15-13, with 7:01 left in the half and trailed, 21-19, with 4:26 remaining in the half, but that would be the last time East would lead.
The Tigers came alive and went on a 12-2 run to end the first half ahead, 31-23.
The spark that got West going was Mike Smith’s performance off the bench. Smith scored nine of his game-high 20 points in the second quarter and hit the Tigers’ first 3-pointer of the game with 4 seconds left in the half.
“I like coming off the bench,” Smith said. “I like to come in and try and give us that spark, get us going at times. Most teams don’t think I can do much because I don’t start.
“We had those runs because of our defense. We weren’t hitting shots early, but we didn’t have that defensive mindset and that what really helps our offense. My teammates found me tonight when I was open and I hit those shots. It was different playing on a Tuesday night.”
The runs that Smith referred were two more that blew the game open in the second half. The Tigers opened the half with a 9-2 run as Trevian Bell and Teyvion Kirk scored all nine points in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Kirk ended the night with 17 points along with five rebounds and Bell had eight points, all in the second half.
The third run finished off the third quarter and eventually the game as the Tigers went on a 10-2 scoring spree the last 1:44 of the third quarter to go up, 52-33. Bell delighted the crowd with a behind-the-head dunk and Smith hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer
“Mike [Smith] did a great job for us tonight,” West coach Nick DiForti said. “He provided that spark we needed and we actually practice taking buzzer-beater shots in practice from anywhere on the floor.
“It was a sloppy win tonight, but, not to make excuses, we rarely play on Tuesdays, especially a conference game and we just got back to school. We started playing better defense and that helped our offense as it does with this team. It was also good to see us get right into our offense coming out of out-of-bounds plays. That has been a struggle for us at times this season.”
Eddie Creal added 12 points for the Tigers and had three of his patented two-handed dunks. He also added five rebounds. Elijah Ward grabbed six boards and had three steals.
Tahj Oliver lead Oswego East with 13 points and Stephon Harris added 12.