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Two Girls Standing & Smiling

Mooseheart Edges Stubborn Newark To Claim Class 1A Somonauk Regional Title

By DARRYL MELLEMA, Associate Editor, Moose Magazine
Click Photo to Enlarge


Mooseheart forward Makur Puou puts up a short shot for 2 of his 5 points in the Ramblers 25-22 victory over Newark in the Class 1A Somonauk Regional title game.
Members of Mooseheart's boys basketball team pose with the Class 1A Somonauk Regional plaque. Mooseheart's victory over Newark marked the second time in school history the Ramblers have won an IHSA Regional title.

Somonauk, Feb. 28 Forget that neither Mooseheart nor Newark scored 30 points on Friday – thanks in large part to Newark's slowdown style of play in the Class 1A Somonauk Regional title game.

What the game boiled down to was a three-point contest with 4 seconds left and Newark inbounding the ball in its offensive halfcourt. The Norsemen attempted to pass the ball inbounds – but Mooseheart's JJ Odunsi moved for the steal, grabbed the ball and dribbled into the frontcourt. The Ramblers attempted a shot, which was irrelevant, at the buzzer, and emerged from the contest with a 25-22 victory.

"It was scary because they pulled the ball out and didn't want to score and it was a close game," Mooseheart senior Mangisto Deng said. "We missed a lot of shots and we just got lucky."

After never winning an IHSA Regional title, the Ramblers (24-5) held aloft a regional plaque for the second consecutive season. Mooseheart advances to the Serena Sectional and plays Hope Academy on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Westminster Christian faces either Chicagoland Jewish or Ida Crown in Tuesday's first sectional semifinal. The championship game is Friday at 7 p.m.

"It's going to be tough," Deng said. "Everybody wants to win. So we've got to play hard and try to win. It's not going to be easy, we know that."

Newark's deliberate style was established early in the contest and the Norsemen never relented in taking their time to find offensive openings. After the first quarter, Mooseheart led 6-2 and the margin was just 11-10 in favor of the Ramblers at halftime.

"It was good for us to come against a team that plays like that," Mooseheart coach Ron Ahrens said. "The next time we come against it, we'll be ready. I'm sure we'll see another team try to do that against us, and we'll have this game as experience when it happens."

A quick burst by Mooseheart in the third quarter gave them a bit of spacing. Key in the surge was Deng, who scored 9 of his game-high 14 points in the quarter. Entering the fourth quarter, Mooseheart led 25-19.

"The main thing is to win the game," Deng said. "In the end, I was so happy. We didn't play well. We missed a lot of shots. But we learned a lesson and the next time, we're going to play hard, keep scoring and take care of the ball."

The fourth quarter's only points came on a Matt Eike three-pointer with 4:33 to play. Though the Norsemen had chances to close the gap or tie, they were unable to score again. The margin remained close because Mooseheart did not score at all in the fourth quarter, something that is often fatal to teams. Friday, thanks to strong defense and Odunsi's steal, the Ramblers survived.

"It's tough when you don't score," Ahrens said. "I give credit to my assistant coach, Coach (Pete) Daneels. He told me we needed to go quicker. So we took Akim (Nyang) out and put another guard (Odunsi) in."



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