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Oswego senior star Miles Simelton was held down by illness in the first half of the Panthers’ game against Wheaton Warrenville South at the Tigers’ inaugural MLK Tournament Saturday.
Simelton scored only two points in the half, and the No. 9 Panthers found themselves in the rare position of trailing at the break.
“I flat out asked him at halftime, I said, ‘Can you go?,’” Oswego coach Kevin Schnable said. “He said yes, so I said, well, go. And he went. He got us going.”
Simelton nailed a three-pointer right out of the halftime break and scored eight points in the third quarter as the Panthers righted the ship and pulled away for a 59-43 win. Oswego (15-2) will face a 16-4 Bartlett squad in the tournament semifinals at 1:15 p.m. Monday.
Wheaton South used a 9-0 run in the first half to take a 17-11 lead with 5:04 left on a three-pointer from Aidan Hernandez. But the Panthers scored the final six points of the half to cut the lead to 20-19 at the break.
“Miles is down right now, feeling a little sick, but we still have to do what we do,” Oswego senior Elliot McGaughy said. “We did start off slow today, but coach told us to get our motor running and that’s what we did in the second half.”
Simelton and McGaughy weren’t the only players to key the third-quarter surge, however. With Jack Kwiatkowski making an official football visit to Truman State Saturday, center Josh Oros stepped up and scored eight points in the paint.
“I thought Josh Oros bailed us out tonight,” Schnable said. “He played a great game. All he did was right spots, right times. He was where he was supposed to be and he benefitted from good passing from our perimeter and he finished.”
McGaughy scored a game-high 23 points for the Panthers. After the slow start, Simelton still managed to score 15 points. Matt Kienzle paced the Tigers with 11 points, with Hernandez adding 10 points.
Oswego is no stranger to big games this season, especially in the wake of its third-place finish at the Proviso West Tournament. The Panthers get another stiff test in Bartlett and UIC-bound star Lance Whitaker Monday afternoon.
“Coach told us to never have fear against anyone,” McGaughy said. “He told us that we can beat anyone. He has strong belief in our team, and I have a strong belief in our team. We’ve been playing hard teams. I just think that right now our potential is really high.”