Long, athletic and promising sophomores and juniors are all over the area. That glittering potential doesn’t always produce a dominant, capable senior basketball player.
It did this time. Mekhi Lowery, Oswego East’s 6-7 forward, has matured into a multi-faceted weapon for the Wolves.
“I’ve definitely learned how to use my athleticism in other ways,” Lowery said. “Trying to crash the glass and get putbacks and stuff like that. And I’ve taken the role of leader, which feels good.”
Lowery and Patrick Robinson led Oswego East to a 33-2 record last season. Robinson graduated, but the Wolves reloaded with a couple of transfers: point guard Bryce Shoto from Plainfield Central and junior Jehvion Starwood from Yorkville Christian.
Starwood scored 14 points to lead No. 11 Oswego East to a 61-46 win against No. 19 West Aurora on Tuesday in Oswego.
The transfers appear to be fitting in. The Wolves moved the ball well, which helped them overcome 21 turnovers.
“Over the summer we really worked on the chemistry, just getting to know them personally and that helped build a relationship,” Oswego East’s Ryan Johnson said. “This group is versatile and I love how we distribute the ball.”
Lowery, a Towson recruit, finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“He’s always had the work ethic but the leadership has been contagious to everybody,” Oswego East coach Ryan Velasquez said. “He’s being more aggressive this year and I love that. He brings so much to the table for us.
Johnson, a 6-7 senior, added six points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three assists. Senior Micah Gatewood scored 13 off the bench and Mason Blanco had 12 points.
“The returning guys from last year are very unselfish players,” Velasquez said. “We preach that from freshman year. The best way to play the game is everybody touched the ball, cut hard, play unselfish. Those new additions feel that and they love it too.”
The Wolves (5-0, 1-0 Southwest Prairie West) beat West Aurora in a Thanksgiving tournament championship game on Friday. Then they led 21-8 midway through the second quarter on Tuesday.
“We definitely lost some focus at that point,” Johnson said. “This season we’ve gone up a bunch of points and just let teams back into it. We have to stay focused and put teams away.”
The lead slowly evaporated through the quarter and then a three-pointer from West Aurora junior Josh Pickett put the Blackhawks ahead 31-30 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
Oswego East ripped off an 11-0 run after Pickett’s shot and never let West Aurora (3-2, 0-1) back into the game.
Pickett, who emerged last season as a sophomore, took over the game for two different stretches. He finished with 23 points and seven rebounds.
Junior Calvin Savage added nine points and sophomore Terrence Smith had nine points and seven rebounds for the Blackhawks.
“[West Aurora] is a good team and they knew what they were going to see from us,” Velasquez said. “So we had to be mentally prepared for that and come out with energy, which we did. That’s a big thing on a Tuesday. It wasn’t perfect basketball but that’s what practice is for.”
Watch the final minute of West Aurora at Oswego East: