|Click Photo to Enlarge
Mooseheart players and coaches post with the Westminster Christian Regional plaque – the first postseason honor for the Ramblers basketball team since a district title in 1964. Mooseheart defeated Hinckley-Big Rock in the regional title game.
Mooseheart guard Peter Kurowski looks for a passing lane in the Ramblers' 55-38 victory over Hinckley-Big Rock. The win earned the Ramblers the IHSA Class 1A Westminster Christian title.
Mooseheart forward Makur Puou shoots for 2 of his 17 points in the Ramblers 55-38 victory over Hinckley-Big Rock in the Westminster Christian Regional title game.
ELGIN, Feb. 22 – To say it's been awhile since Mooseheart earned some boys basketball postseason hardware is a massive understatement. Not only were none of the current players alive, but some of their parents weren't alive either.
While Mooseheart boys basketball coach Ron Ahrens was alive when Mooseheart won a District title back when Illinois only had one class in boys basketball, it's not something he would have ever remembered.
"I was 1-year-old," Ahrens said. "I was born in 1963, so I know it's been a long time – 49 years."
Mooseheart earned the title in the IHSA Class 1A Westminster Christian Regional on Friday with a 55-38 victory over top-seeded Hinckley-Big Rock. The second-seeded Ramblers scored the first five points, never trailed and kept the lead above 10 points throughout the second half.
"What a great win," Ahrens said. "We played well tonight, good enough to win. I would have been disappointed if we would have gotten beat."
By winning the regional, Mooseheart (24-5) advances to an IHSA sectional for the first time, and this year, that sectional takes place on the Ramblers home court. Mooseheart faces Chicagoland Jewish in a sectional semifinal on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
"I'm so excited," Mooseheart junior guard Mangisto Deng said. "I want to thank everybody for coming here. We didn't play like this just because of us on the court. We played like this because of Mooseheart. We came here to play for Mooseheart and our family there."
Mooseheart's defense provided the key to the victory played before a standing-room only crowd at Judson University's Lindner Fitness Center. The game was switched from Westminster Christian's gym to accommodate more people, and the move proved to be a good one as fans from both teams filled their respective sides of the gymnasium.
In that gym, Hinckley-Big Rock (24-5) only scored four points in the first quarter and trailed 29-13 at halftime.
Mooseheart also showed a different defensive setup to the Royals than it used in a 58-51 defeat in December. In that game, Mooseheart played man-to-man defense through most of the contest. Friday, the Ramblers played a 1-3-1 zone for much of the game. That defense limited the Royals' scoring from the outside – Hinckley-Big Rock only hit three three-pointers.
"We played the 1-3-1 better than we've ran it all year," Ahrens said. "We've been working on 1-3-1 and adding some other stuff in tonight. We played defense really well."
Of the defenders who helped key Mooseheart was junior guard Peter Kurowski, who added eight points.
"I think our defense has been our key all year," Kurowski said. "We were trying to hold them under 30 and we couldn't. But our defense leads to our offense and when we play good defense, it makes our offense's job better."
As a team, Mooseheart's combined threat of inside scoring and an outside threat kept their offense moving fluently. Deng hit a pair of three-pointers and led all scorers with 18 points.
Makur Pupu also reached double-digit scoring with 17 points. Hinckley-Big Rock's leading scorer was Zach Michels, who scored 12 points.
The schedule for Mooseheart's sectional is:
Tuesday, Feb. 26: Newark vs. Chicago Hope Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb . 27: Mooseheart vs. Chicagoland Jewish, 7:30 p.m.
Friday or Saturday, Feb. March 1 or March 2: Semifinal winners meet at 7:30 p.m. If Mooseheart wins Wednesday game, the title game is March 1. If Chicagoland Jewish wins, the title game is March 2.
Mooseheart 55, Hinckley-Big Rock 38
Mooseheart: Okito 0 1-2 1, Odunewu 1 1-3 3, Hart 0 0-0 0,Kurowski 2 3-6 8, Mahoney 0 0-0 0, Deng 5 6-10 Gbadebo 1 0-0 2, Puou 8 1-5 17, Sanni 1 0-0 2, Nyang 2 0-0 4. Totals 20 12-26 55.
Hinckley-Big Rock: Madden 3 1-1 7, Conley 2 2-2 7, Klambauer 0 0-0 0, Bayler 2 0-0 5, Gentry 0 1-2 1, Michels 5 2-4 12, Ruh 1 3-4 6, Carls 0 0-2 0. Totals 13 9-15 38.
Mooseheart 11 18 9 17 - 55
Hinckley-Big Rock 4 9 11 14 - 38
Three-point goals: Mooseheart: Kurowski 1, Deng 2. Hinckley-Big Rock: Conley 1, Bayler 1, Ruh 1. Fouled out: Madden.