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Opens Regionals With Victory
Then Bow Out To High Powered Seneca
By Bill Lidinsky
It was a foregone conclusion that the Plano High School varsity basketball team was forced into facing.
Win your first game of the post season IHSA Class A playoffs and then be required to go up against the undefeated and number one ranked team in the State of Illinois in the Seneca Fighting Irish.
By virtue of the IHSA seedings, the Reapers drew the “short straw” and were assigned to the Somonauk Regional where the Irish would loom as Plano’s ominous second round opponent once they got by their first round matchup with the host Bobcats.
Knowing what was ahead, the Reapers almost reluctantly squeaked past Somonauk 70-66 on Tuesday Feb. 21 to set up last Thursday’s contest with Seneca.
Junior Obina Agomo single handily kept Plano in the game against the Bobcats scoring 20 of his game high 28 points in the first half. The Reapers then scrapped back from a nine point second half deficit to win by four as Agomo added 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots to his magnificent overall game performance.
“Before we came out against Somonauk, coach Spriggs said he wanted our guards to get the ball to the money men in the post. I just tried to be that guy who scored and rebounded well,” Agomo said.
In addition to Agomo’s performance, three other Plano players scored in double figures. Senior’s Alex Jensen and Will Brown had 12 and 10 points respectively, while junior Eric Nelson added 10 as the Reapers braced for the inevitable regional semifinal matchup versus the Irish.
“Obi was huge for us against Somonauk. He was very aggressive in knocking down shots while really going after the offensive glass. His great play allowed us to hang around and just barely get a win from a Bobcat team that played well on their home court,” said Plano head basketball coach Nate Spriggs. “We definitely wanted the win, but I can’t say my guys are too excited about playing Seneca again. What I can say is that we have the opportunity to move forward in the playoffs and give it our best shot. I know we won’t lay down and die just because they’re the number one ranked team in the state.”
Nobody could say the Reapers did that against the Irish this time. Despite losing by a combined total of 150-50 in their first two meetings in 2005-06, Plano showed a fire and enthusiasm while giving Seneca all they could handle through the first 14 minutes of the ballgame.
Trailing 15-5 after one quarter, the Reapers rallied to trim the deficit to 21-17 with two minutes to go in the first half.
But Seneca countered with a 10-2 run to send both teams into the locker room with the Irish up 31-19 at half-time.
“You’ve got to give the Plano kids a lot of credit. They never quit and gave us all that we could handle in the first half,” said Seneca head coach Doug Evans. “We were able to put a little run together that got us up 12 right before the half. That momentum seemed to carry us into the third quarter where we turned it up a notch and were able to get a regional victory. But hats off to the Plano kids for a heck of a job.”
The Irish outscored the Reapers 25-8 in the third quarter but Plano still didn’t give up countering with a 24-14 advantage during the fourth period. Unfortunately for the Reapers Seneca ultimately prevailed 70-51 in a game where the result had been expected.
What was unexpected however by some, was the fierce effort put forth by Plano in scoring 51 points against undoubtedly one of the best defensive teams in Class A. No other team had scored more than 46 points against the Irish so far this season. So the Reaper’s effort against great odds now shines brightly as one of the tougher ballgames Seneca has been involved in during their 28-0 run in 05-06.
Brown led the Reapers with 15 points, while Jensen and Agomo added 10 each as Plano ended their season with an overall record of 12-17 and a 5-9 mark during Interstate Eight Conference play. All-State senior Garrett Callahan led all scorers with 18 points for the Irish.
“You know you’re playing the number one ranked team in the state and you know your going to have to be perfect to even have a chance at winning,” Jensen said. “Will and I as seniors never quit and neither did our teammates. We came out and played our best game and hung with them for awhile. They’re just so good at all facets of the game. Hopefully they’ll win the state championship and then maybe we’ll be able to say we scored the most points against them with 51.”
Jensen and Brown now depart the Reapers as the lone seniors from a club that battled through adversity losing some key players throughout the year. But all the while the two stood strong. Both were rewarded highly as Jensen grabbed I-8 All Conference honors, while Brown was named along with Jensen as two of the top 10 seniors in the league.
They will now compete in the annual I-8 Little Ten Conference All Star Shoot-Out sponsored by the Leland Lions Club. The event is scheduled for Saturday March 25 at Plano High School.
“Al and Will have done everything I’ve asked all season. They never quit on me or the team. Without them, our program never could’ve gotten to the level that it’s at with winning 20 games, a Regional Championship last year, and competing strongly against the number one ranked team in the regional semifinals this season,” Spriggs said. “You can’t say enough about them not folding and sticking it out when the going got tough. We’ll miss them tremendously next year.”
Seneca ended up winning the Regional Championship at Somonauk with a 66-42 victory over Hinckley-Big Rock. The Irish now move on to the Sectional Championships where they faced Princeton on Tuesday evening. Bureau Valley High School is hosting the Sectional that will also see the advancement of Plano junior Brian Green in the three-point shooting competition. Green competed on Tuesday before the Seneca-Princeton game with the hopes of advancing to the next round on Friday night also at Bureau Valley.
Three-Point Showdown Advancers: Scott Powers Somonauk Matt Hochstatter Somonauk Brian Green Plano Ryan Campisi Plano
BRIAN HOXSEY, firstname.lastname@example.org,
SOMONAUK -- It was a game that could have gone either way.
But Plano's Alex Jensen made sure things went his team's way, by scoring all 11 of his points in the final eight and a half minutes. Jensen's scoring streak, coupled with Obinna Agomo's strong second quarter, helped the seventh-seeded Reapers advance past Somonauk, 70-66, in the opening game of the Somonauk Class A Regional on Tuesday night.
Agomo finished with a game-high 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked eight shots, Eric Nelson 10 points and Will Brown 10 points and 10 rebounds for Plano, which will now have the unveil task of playing top-seed Seneca -- the No. 1 team in the state -- in Thursday's 6 p.m. semifinal game.
"(Obinna) really kept us in the game early when we struggled; he is long and athletic and was able to get some easy looks," said Plano head coach Nate Spriggs. "It was kind of an ugly game, but like I told the guys, at this time of the year you just try to advance and that is what we did, so we are satisfied with that. In the second half (Alex) hit a couple of long 3s to get us back in the game, then hit some free throws to put us up and seal the victory for us.
"Hopefully we will come and play a little better on Thursday, compete and see what happens. We are going to forget about the first two matchups (with Seneca) and try to execute better."
The No. 8 seed Bobcats (8-18) jumped out to a 15-12 lead after one quarter with senior Matt Hochstatter netting seven points. Agomo took over in the second frame by scoring the last 14 Reaper points, including a layup with three seconds remaining to give Plano a 30-28 lead at halftime.
"I thought in the second half we limited their second shots, but the first half for them it was shoot, rebound, shoot, shoot, rebound, score -- it comes down to the desire to get the ball," said Bobcat head coach Ron Hunt. "You collapse in the lane, then that opens up the outside. They are good shooters, so it's just a matter of time before they start hitting those -- they hit big shots when they had too."
Somonauk stormed out of the locker room on a 10-0 run, starting with senior Nick Duffield's trey from the top of the key. The Reapers -- 0-for-5 from beyond the arc in the first half -- started to find their range. Consecutive 3s from Brook Bott were followed by a triple from Eric Nelson, but the Bobcats still led heading to the fourth 50-44.
The Reapers (12-16) clawed their way back to tie the score at 63 after Brown's layup off an inbounds play with 2:10 on the clock. A layup and two free throws by Agomo, plus 3 of 4 free throws by Jensen in the final minute helped seal the victory.
Sophomore Scott Powers led Somonauk with 16 points and eight assists. Senior Wes Enoch chipped in 15 points, while Hochstatter scored 14 points to go along with his 15 game-high rebounds.
"(Hochstatter) is the strongest kid on our team, sometimes all it takes is being strong and wanting to get the ball," Hunt added. "My heart goes out to those seniors; they played a hard game, kept us in the game and tried their best to win. It was a game we had a chance at and we have had so many of those this year."
SOMONAUK (66) -- Powers 7-19 2-3 16, Hochstatter 6-15 2-4 14, Duffield 2-7 0-0 5, Enoch 6-17 1-4 15, Champion 0-0 0-0 0, Adrian 0-1 0-0 0, J.Smith 3-5 1-1 7, Giesholt 2-5 0-0 6, Holcomb 1-2 0-0 3, Rivera 0-0 0-0 0, Bunkofske 0-0 0-0 0, Josefchuck 0-0 0-0 0, Weismiller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-71 6-12 66.
PLANO (70) -- Jensen 3-13 4-6 11, Brown 4-10 2-6 10, Bott 2-7 0-0 6, Nelson 4-8 0-0 10, Agomo 10-18 8-11 28, Green 1-2 0-1 2, M.Smith 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 24-58 16-26 70.
Somonauk (8-18) 15 13 22 16 -- 66
Plano (12-16) 12 18 14 26 -- 70
3-point baskets -- Somonauk 6-21 (Powers 0-7, Hochstatter 0-1, Duffield 1-2, Enoch 2-6, Giesholt 2-4, Holcomb 1-1); Plano 6-17 (Jensen 2-6, Bott 2-7, Nelson 2-3, Green 0-1). Rebounds -- Somonauk 39 (Hochstatter 15, Duffield 9); Plano 35 (Agomo 11, Brown 10). Assists -- Somonauk 15 (Powers 8); Plano 15 (Brown 6). Turnovers -- Somonauk 11; Plano 12. Total fouls (fouled out) -- Somonauk 21 (J.Smith); Plano 13 (Agomo).
SOMONAUK — Leading throughout the second half and by seven points with about six minutes remaining in the game, Somonauk seemed to be in control of Plano in the first round of the Class A Regional on Tuesday night.
But Plano coach Nate Spriggs had an ace up his sleeve. Forward Obina Agomo had seen some bench time with foul trouble. But when he re-entered the game, the Reapers, seeded No. 7 in the Bureau Valley Sectional, found instant energy and rallied to oust eighth-seeded Somonauk 70-66.
Looming Thursday night for Plano in the regional semifinal is unbeaten Seneca, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class A for most of the season. The Fighting Irish thumped Plano twice in the regular season by a surreal combined count of 150-50.
"The great thing about high school basketball is that everybody has a chance to win the state championship because everybody makes the playoffs," said Spriggs. "Unfortunately we got put in a regional with Seneca. But we'll come out Thursday and try to perform better than we did tonight."
The game came down to the final two minutes. With the score knotted at 63-63, the Reapers (12-16) had the ball and began milking the clock. After holding the ball almost a minute, Alex Jensen fed Will Brown (10 points, 11 boards) at the foul line. Brown found Agomo all alone cutting to the basket for a 65-63 lead.
Somonauk sophomore Scott Powers (16 points) missed a 3-point attempt at the other end. Matt Hochstatter's putback attempt fell off and was rebounded by Agomo, who was fouled and converted both free throws with 44 seconds left.
When Wes Enoch missed a pair of free throws for the Bobcats, Jensen made his two foul shots and established a comfortable 69-63 lead with 12 seconds remaining.
The Bobcats weren't done yet, however. Chris Giesholt's 3-pointer with seven seconds left got his team within one possession. But Somonauk couldn't intercept the ensuing inbounds pass, and Jensen sealed the verdict with a free throw.
Shortly after Agomo entered the game early in the fourth quarter, Eric Nelson (10 points) drained a 16-footer and a trey, followed by another 3-pointer by Jensen. That narrowed a seven-point Bobcat lead to 55-54.
Somonauk, which finished 8-17, built the lead back to 59-54 on baskets by Jason Smith and Powers. But a three-point play by Agomo and an NBA-range 3-pointer by Jensen tied the score at 61-.
Agomo, a junior 6-foot-2 leaper who transferred from Lake Park at midseason, had a monster game. He poured in 28 points, snared 15 rebounds, and blocked eight Somonauk shots. He was at his best in the first half, when he scored 20 of his team's 30 points.
"Since I came here, Coach (Spriggs) has told me to be a post presence," said Agomo. "It's a big change for me since I played point guard at Lake Park, but the guys have been feeding me the ball trying to get some easy layups. We'll go hard in practice tomorrow and get ready for Seneca."
Jensen, the Reaper leader, struggled from the field, missing his first nine shots and going scoreless until hitting a free throw late in the third quarter. But he made all three shots in the fourth quarter, including the two from long range, and finished with 12 points and five assists.
The Bobcats hung with Plano in the first half and built a lead in the second behind center Hochstetter. Playing in his final game, he had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Enoch added 15 points on a pair of 3-pointers for the Bobcats.
"We had things under control, but it slipped away," said Somonauk coach Ron Hunt. "Credit Plano, they executed down the stretch."
The Reapers cashed in at the foul line, hitting 16 of 27, while Somonauk made only 6 of 12.