PLAINFIELD – Owning an 11-game winning streak going into Thursday’s Class 4A Plainfield North Sectional championship game, Joliet Central’s girls basketball team looked like it might be on the verge of continuing its historic run when it met fellow Southwest Prairie Conference member Oswego.
The teams had split games, with the Steelmen beating the Panthers in the Oswego East Tournament, which was another positive indicator for coach Laura Brumfiel’s team.
But Oswego used a fast start, scoring the first eight points of Thursday’s game, and Central struggled throughout to make a serious run against the Panthers. Poor shooting from the field and free-throw line, along with turnovers, doomed their comeback hopes.
The Panthers built a 20-12 halftime lead and then didn’t allow the Steelmen to get any closer than six points in the third quarter. Oswego took a 31-21 advantage into the fourth quarter and went on to capture a 48-28 victory for its first sectional title since 2010.
“We had a great start and got hot,” Panthers coach John Carlson said. “We have some shooters, and when they’re on, they’re on. We’ve had some up and down games this year, but we also play pretty good defense. They’re a well-coached team who had a great season. We’re both in a tough conference, so it was nice to get to get the win.”
The Panthers (24-7) play at 7 p.m. Monday at the Lewis University Supersectional against Benet Academy, which beat Montini, 61-33, in the Hinsdale South Sectional final.
Oswego opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers from the game’s leading scorer, Julia Henrikson (17 points), which preceded and followed a layup by Janelle Rogers (14 points) to give the Panthers an 8-0 lead only 3:10 into the game.
The Steelmen (24-7) got as close as 8-4 after a layup by Jalysa Stokes (13 points), who later hit a 3-pointer to pull Central to within 13-7 after one quarter.
The Panthers made it 20-8 with 1:06 left in the half after a rebound and bucket by Henrikson, but Central responded with a pair of layups by Stokes to pull them to within 20-12 at the intermission.
In the third quarter, the Steelmen got as close as 26-20 with 2:41 left after a layup by Harmony Burrell, but Oswego used a 3-pointer from Danielle Dorilio (10 points) to build a 31-21 lead with one quarter remaining.
Shawnton Brown scored all five of her points in the second half to try to rally the Steelmen, but Oswego continued to build on its lead and wound up with a 20-point victory.
While Central obviously was upset to see its special season end in a disappointing fashion, Brumfiel knew the Steelmen should be proud of what they accomplished.
“Oswego is a great team, and they played a great game tonight while we struggled from the field and had a hard time scoring tonight,” Brumfiel said. “Kudos to Oswego since they came out of the gates ready to go and hit some big shots, and then we had to play catch-up.”
“This was a great group of kids, first and foremost and they’ve accomplished a lot. They were Thanksgiving and regional champions and are record was very good. They brought some excitement back to Joliet Central for basketball.”