News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

News for Wildcats, by Wildcats.

The Paw Print

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Normal West struggles against St. Joseph Ogden in 2-point overtime loss, looks to get back on track against Champaign Centennial

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Lorelai Hoban
Senior Point Guard Isaiah Robinson (#3) looks to dish the ball to one of his teammates during a tough matchup with an athletic and experiences Saint Joseph Ogden team this past Tuesday, December 5. Tonight, Robinson and teammates head to Champaign Centennial to take on a conference foe in hopes of securing a Wildcat win.

Normal West Boys Basketball went head-to-head with a 12th ranked 2A St. Joe Ogden team on Tuesday, December 5. Although the final score did not go West’s way, tensions were high with multiple lead changes and an overtime battle on West’s home court.

As the game got underway, West started out on offense after recovering the jump ball. 

Senior Guard, Nate Moore (#4), who ended with 29 points in the game, was the first to score, giving West the initial lead. 

As the first quarter continued, however, an aggressive and well-coached St. Joe Ogden team would not back down. 

“They played to their strengths. And I thought for being a smaller school team, they didn’t back down,” Coach Ed Hafermann stated. “They weren’t intimidated by us at all.” 

St. Joe Ogden’s aggression at the basketball helped them to keep it close, but West continued to put up points on the board with Senior Isaiah Robinson, (#3), making dominant assists to his teammates. 

The first quarter ended with a 15-10 West lead.

However, West struggled to get their offense going in the second quarter.  In fact, the Wildcats shot 36.4% of their shots from the field and only hit one out of their four attempted three pointers. 

Although West’s defense was phenomenal, SJO found a way to get their offense going by hitting seven out of their ten shots from the floor. 

They also found a way to get to the basket, shooting six for nine in the paint. 

“We were switching on a lot of screens and so they started, what you call ‘slipping the screens.’ They were able, on the slips, when we switched, to get in front of our guy, and they got the ball inside mainly in the paint. So, they did a really good job of getting paint touches in the first half,” Head Coach Ed Hafermann noted of SJO’s offense.

Aside from getting paint touches, SJO’s scoring run in the second quarter can also be attributed to them slowing down the pace of the game, which limited West from getting out and running their usually-fast-paced game.

With 2 minutes left in the half, SJO made a three and a layup, making it 24-23 with West still in the lead. 

With a minute left, however, SJO made sure they were in the lead with a quick bucket to end the half.

Normal West was outscored 15-9 in the second quarter, giving SJO a narrow 25-24 lead heading into halftime.

By the third quarter, tensions were high in the gymnasium and the crowd began to wake up.

In the first two minutes of the half, SJO hit a big three, but sophomore Maliq Givens-Smith retaliated with  a three of his own.

Coach Hafermann was especially impressed with Givens-Smith’s play in the contest: “I thought Maliq did a really good job coming off the bench. He practices really hard, and he has a really good attitude. He’s probably one of the most selfless guys on the team…so, it was good to see him come in and handle the ball a little bit…He seems like he has a motor that’s going quite a bit as well too. So I thought Maliq really stepped it up last night,” Coach boasted of his young athlete.

Sophomore Maliq Givens-Smith (#0) gave the Wildcats some solid minutes on Tuesday night. Head Coach Ed Hafermann is looking forward to seeing Maliq continue to grow this season. (Jossie Rood)

However, even with Givens-Smith giving great minutes off of the bench, West continued to struggle with SJO’s athleticism. 

At the conclusion of the third quarter, West trailed by 5 points with a score of 39-44. 

The Wildcats got into some foul trouble in the fourth quarter with both Hafermann and Moore in foul trouble. However, the Wildcats kept the game close.

With about six seconds left in regulation, Moore converted a rare four-point play while getting fouled on a made three-pointer and sinking the free throw. 

West then went on to hold SJO in their final possession, sending the game into overtime.

“I thought the guys did a really good job battling back midway through the fourth quarter. We made a little run there and then obviously Nate hit that three. We executed the sideline out of bounds play because we were out of timeouts. So, we were in a play called ‘Get,’ and he was able to make a really tough shot. You hardly ever see a four point play on that. Our guys were excited,” Coach Hafermann noted of the excitement to conclude regulation.

“I’d say [it felt] mostly high pressure. It was exciting, especially when Nate hit the four four point play,” Taylor Hafermann added.

The intensity of the fourth quarter indefinitely carried into overtime as both teams played high-level defense and tried to give themselves opportunities to take a lead.

It was not until Senior SJO Point Guard Logan Smith (#5) converted a tough play at the end of overtime that the crowd would see any offensive action in the exciting overtime contest.

“We got the tip at overtime. We kind of went into a little bit of a delayed offense just because we had guys who played a lot of minutes, and unfortunately, we had a turnover there, which cost us. So, I knew that when that happened they were going to try to hold for the last shot, and that’s what they did. And they executed their play out of bounds after the timeout,” Coach Hafermann noted.

With the ball back with seconds left, West attempted a last-minute shot to tie it back up, but to no avail.

“The ball just didn’t really fall into our hands towards the end. And I mean, it’s just the way it goes sometimes,” West Senior Point Guard Isaiah Robinson stated of the ending.

“To me, it just felt like another chance to do what we should have done the whole entire game, but we just ended up not executing and it just was what it was,” Robinson added.

The final score of the game was 55-57, moving West’s overall record to 2-4 thus far.

The loss to SJO was a crucial team learning experience, but the boys realize they have a lot of season left. In fact, the boys face a scrappy 4-1 Champaign Centennial team tonight in Champaign and will take on a currently 6-0 Mt. Zion team on Tuesday, December 12 at home.

“We’ve just got to execute. Those are two winnable games. We just got to come out, play hard and just do what we’re supposed to do, and we should get it done,” Robinson stated.

“It’s a big game against Centennial…  if we win that game, we put ourselves right back in the hunt for the conference championship,” Coach Hafermann stated. 

Catch West in action at Champaign Centennial tonight. Tip off is at 7pm.

 

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