Winnebago might be 15-0 and state-ranked, but the Oregon Hawks proved to be just as capable in a heartbreaking 78-72 overtime loss on Jan. 5.
“By far, this was the tightest game we’ve been in,” Winnebago coach Joe Murphy said. “Marmion and Harlem were tight, but we felt in control. This one, we weren’t. My hat’s off to Oregon for taking us out of our game.”
This is the same Winnebago team that just finished buzzing through a bunch of 3A/4A teams to win the Chuck Dayton tournament.
“That’s the best we’ve played for four quarters,” Oregon coach Quinn Virgil said. “The only difference between ‘Bago and us is that they put teams away. We play other teams’ levels. We need to get the mental edge and character they have.”
Oregon had a chance to win in regulation, but a fall-away jumper by Caleb Mowry rimmed in and out at the buzzer.
“We wanted to get Caleb a touch and a shot along the baseline,” Virgil said. “We knew they would deny him inside. He made that same (baseline) shot in Newman tournament for a last-second win, but ‘Bago pushed him a foot further out than we wanted.”
In the overtime, Jessie McKinley scored a basket off an Ian Holley assist and Mowry added another basket, his 32nd point of the game, to give the Hawks a 72-68 lead.
“Mowry was giving us fits,” Murphy said. “He tore us up inside.”
“I don’t think there is a better post player around, especially on the offensive end,” Virgil said. “Caleb showed he can take games over, Truthfully, he has done that almost every night. He has gotten quicker and has a better shot.”
As much as Mowry created problems for the Indians, Jacoby Posley posed similar difficulties for Oregon. Posley matched Mowry with 32 points of his own and it was a rare 4-point play after Mowry’s basket that turned the game around for Winnebago in overtime.
With his team desperately needing a spark, Posley responded with a 3-point basket and was fouled. He converted the free throw and suddenly the game was 72-72. Seconds later, a Hawk turnover put the ball in Matt Reinke (21 points) hands and he made it 74-72.
Posley increased the lead to 76-72 on an acrobatic layup that hung up on the rim before going in. A pair of ‘Bago free throws closed a 10-point run and the Indians escaped with the narrow win.
“In the past, we let Posley try to kill us with the 3-point shot,” Virgil said. “Since last year, he’s become a different player. Now, he can kill you with the jumper.”
“Since the third game of the Forreston tournament, he’s had his shot,” Murphy said.
For Oregon, it was Holley that got his shot going, staking the Hawks to a 8-2 lead. Holley was also effective with precision-like assists throughout the contest.
“He’s had good practices lately,” Virgil said. “He’s been struggling, but has got his confidence back.”
Even with a hot hand in the first quarter, the Hawks trailed 18-17, as the Indians made five of their first six 3-pointers. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the first half before Winnebago began to pull away.
With three minutes left in the third quarter, the Indians led 48-36. Then in a stunning twist, the Hawks ran off 15 straight points to take a 51-48 lead.
Alec Ketter started the rally, followed by eight points by Mowry and five by Holden White, off the bench.
“Winnebago went to a diamond (1-2-2) zone-trapping press,” explained Virgil. “We were able to score on several two-on-one possessions. That’s as well as I’d seen us play the diamond.”
With less than two minutes left in regulation, the Hawks held a 66-63 lead and had possession of the ball. A combination of missed free throws by Oregon and five points by Posley sent the game into overtime.
“I know we can play better,” Virgil said. “We shot 47 percent from the free throw line, gave up 17 offensive boards and had 18 turnovers. After the game I was disappointed, but I feel we can beat anyone.”
The Hawks fell to 9-6 overall and 0-3 in the BNC.
“Oregon had a great game plan against us,” Murphy said. “I don’t think we were flat either after winning the (Chuck Dayton).”