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Mooseheart Boys Basketball Team Opens Regional With Comfortable Win Over Serena

By DARRYL MELLEMA, Associate Editor, Moose Magazine
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Mooseheart's JJ Odunsi prepares to launch a shot in Mooseheart's regional victory over Serena. Odunsi scored 7 points in the game.
Mooseheart senior guard Mangisto Deng moves across the free throw lane before taking a shot in the first quarter of the Ramblers' 81-41 victory over Serena. Deng led all scorers with 25 points.

Somonauk, Feb. 26 As important as it was for Mooseheart's boys basketball team to win its playoff opener on Wednesday against Serena, the Ramblers also wanted to establish a firm foundation for whatever playoff run the team manages this season.

Both goals were met, first with an 81-41 victory in the Somonauk Class 1A Regional semifinals and then in the manner in which the victors created their success.

"I think we played really well in the first half," Mooseheart coach Ron Ahrens said. "If I saw us play in the first half, just from a fans' standpoint, I'd say 'boy those guys are really good.'"

There were some worrying points, despite the comfortable margin through most of the game, especially early in the second half. Mooseheart carried a 53-19 lead at halftime, but Serena matched the Ramblers 16-16 in the third quarter as play was increasingly disjointed.

"With the teams we have left in this regional, we can't have a bad third quarter," Ahrens said. "That kind of concerns me, especially starting regionals."

Mooseheart faces Newark on Friday at 7 p.m. in the regional title game. Newark defeated regional host Somonauk 50-42 in Wednesday's second semifinal.

Led by a 15-point first quarter by Mangisto Deng, Mooseheart (25-3) worked to a 24-9 lead after the first quarter. Deng led all scorers with 25 points. But in the early stages, the Ramblers defense created a series of fastbreak opportunities and numeric advantages in the offensive halfcourt.

"I thought we played really good team defense," Ahrens said. "I thought we had a bunch of assists tonight. We were passing the ball up the floor and we got the ball to people who were out in front, which was really nice to see."

As a sign of the team effort, guard Freddie Okito not only scored 9 points, but added 12 rebounds.

"He has had an excellent rebounding year," Ahrens said. "A lot of is it that we play him on the off-guard side, so he's often times the off-side rebounder. He's done a fantastic job all year and he's a fantastic rebounder for his size."

Scoring consistently thoughout the game was power forward Makur Puou, who finished with 22 points and some monster slam dunks. Adding scoring depth was Hameed Odunewu who scored 14 points despite not scoring in the first quarter. None of Mooseheart's top scorers played much in the fourth quarter.

"Our defense sets up our offense and then we ran some good offense," Ahrens said. "We attacked the basket. That's always our first goal, to attack the basket. I thought we did pretty well with that. And then the next thing to do is to react, and if you have an open guy, pass it to him."



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