Winnebago continued its unbeaten streak March 1 when the Indians cruised to a 74-52 win over Sterling Newman at the Class 2A Byron Sectional final.
With the win, Winnebago advances to the DeKalb Super-sectional where the Indians will face Monmouth-Roseville on March 6 at 8 p.m.
The first 14 minutes of Friday's game were like a classic bout between two heavyweight sluggers. The Indians took a shot, and Newman (25-5) reeled a bit before firing a punch back.
The Comets connected with the first haymaker, 3-pointers by Nic Miller and Micah Trancoso that put Newman up 9-5 with 5:46 left in the first quarter. All that did was spur a 4-0 Winnebago run that tied the score.
Lucas Terveer had an answer, hitting a 3-pointer of his own. Back-and-forth it went, and the Comets closed the quarter with an 18-16 lead after A.J. Sharp made two of three free-throw attempts with 1.7 seconds left.
"It gave us a lot confidence coming out and hitting some shots and playing with them," Miller said. "Going into halftime down by five or six points felt really good, but we knew that they were probably going to come out and make a push."
"From the onset, I felt like the pace was a little faster than we wanted to go," said Newman coach Ray Sharp. "When they play that press, it's easy to fall into that game. You move it upcourt fast and then work the offense fast. Once they got us into that, it played into their game. They are used to that speed and have the athletes to play it the whole game. We have depth, but not quite as much depth as them."
The Winnebago run started in the last 2 minutes of the first half, shortly after Trancoso left the game with a cut above his left eye and starting center Kyle Moore – who battled flu-like symptoms before the game – picked up his second foul.
Matt Reinke, who missed his first four shots, hit a 3-pointer to put Winnebago up 32-27. Two Derek Polkowski free throws extended the lead out to 34-27 before A.J. Sharp hit a jumper for the last points of the half.
Winnebago (31-0) blew the game open by scoring the first 10 points of the third quarter. Reinke had six of those points, including making a free throw after being fouled on a made 3-pointer. The run put Winnebago up 44-27.
"It all started with our defense," Reinke said. "We picked up our intensity, started making them force things. We always look to turn our defense into offense on the other end."
Reinke, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, finished with a game-high 27 points. He made eight of 20 field-goal attempts, shot 3-for-11 on 3-point attempts and was 8-for-9 from the line.
"We came out focused on stopping Reinke and [Jacoby] Posley," A.J. Sharp said. "Early on, they weren't hitting shots, but they have so many other guys that can score. Once Reinke got going, it put a lot of pressure on our defense to stop him and not let other players get open."
Posley had 13 points, six of which came in fourth quarter, helping stave off Newman's hope of a comeback.
"I think we got fatigued," Ray Sharp said. "They can come at you so many ways. That's why you started seeing some missed shots and us getting beat on the offensive boards."
Newman missed some opportunities that could have slowed the Winnebago run. Sharp had a pair 3-pointers rim out, and Moore missed four shots from inside the paint. The Comets shot 2-for-13 for the quarter, scoring four points to Winnebago's 15.
"It gets very frustrating when the shots won't fall," A.J. Sharp said. "It was tough because you see them pulling away, and that makes you want to try even harder, and then you start pushing and forcing things."
Sharp led Newman with 20 points, going 8-for-21 from the field. Moore had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Winnebago beats Oregon in regional final
By Andy Colbert
From the start of the second quarter to the end of the game, Oregon and Winnebago each had 46 points. It was the first quarter, though, that created problems for the Hawks.
Winnebago jumped out to a 16-6 lead and never let Oregon get any closer than five points the rest of the way in a 62-52 Class 2A regional final Feb. 22.
“We had first quarter jitters and just turned it over too much,” Oregon coach Quinn Virgil said. “We’re not used to playing in front of this many people. I could see it our faces when we were warming up.”
Using a 9-man rotation, Winnebago’s full court press forced Oregon into nearly as many first-quarter turnovers than the Hawks had (11) in its semifinal game against Byron.
Ramping up the defensive pressure and stirring up the large ‘Bago crowd, Brent Campbell and Ryan
Swigart rejected two of Caleb Mowry’s shots in that same time span.
“I think those were big blocks,” Winnebago coach Joe Murphy said. “They didn’t go back to him much until the fourth quarter.”
Mowry had a game-high 20 points, but only eight in the first three quarters. The 6-foot-5 all-state candidate ignited a mini Hawk run early in the third quarter with two straight baskets to help Oregon close to within 34-28 after trailing 30-19.
Poor shooting by Winnebago, who were only 12-for-36 at that point in the game, also helped Oregon. A Holden White steal gave the ball back to Oregon, but the bottom then fell out for the Hawks.
Jessie McKinley immediately turned the ball on a travel, White had an intentional foul, Mowry was called for charging and to compound matters, Derek Polkowski banked in a 3-point shot at the buzzer for Winnebago.
Suddenly, the 34-28 Indian lead grew to 45-28 at the end of the quarter.
“The problem is, ‘Bago can go on runs in so many different ways,” Virgil said.
A Jacoby Posley dunk off a steal to start the fourth quarter made it 47-28 and things looked even more dismal for Oregon.
Alex Cain, who directed Oregon offense all night, led the Hawks on a 10-point run to pull his team to within 47-38 with five minutes remaining.
Reinke responded with a 3-point basket on the other end and ‘Bago regained control. Reinke and
Posley each had 19 points.
“Down the stretch, that shot was big for us,” Murphy said.
“They have got so many shooters that can hurt you and can score in so many different ways off transition,” Virgil said. “It’s tough guarding both Reinke and Posley. Plus, they have other guys that can make the three.”
Cain and Mowry added 3-pointers in the final minutes and McKinley was 4-for-4 at the line, but the Hawks would not come any closer than nine points the rest of the game.
“We couldn’t get over the hump,” said Cain, who has played on the same AAU team with Reinke and Posley since seventh grade. “On defense, they never stop. Whenever you think someone is open, it closes so quick on you. We just got a little out of control.”
Alec Ketter quietly had nine points for Oregon (15-14) in helping Mowry down low. Winnebago remains undefeated at 28-0 and advances to the Byron sectional.