Unlike last year, determining the Southwest Prairie Conference champion could come down to the final week of the season.
Oswego clinched the 2013 title in the first week of February, but this year first-place Plainfield East is trying to stay ahead of Plainfield South, Plainfield North and Minooka.
Playing with a one-game lead and coming off a loss Friday to South, East was able to maintain sole possession of the top spot Tuesday night with a 62-57 win over visiting Oswego.
“I think this was huge. We had to come out and get this win,’’ Plainfield East point guard Myles Ward said.
“Every game is big due to the fact we lost to South. We made our jobs harder because we lost that game,’’ forward Josh Smith said.
East scoring leader Aaron Jordan led the Bengals with 19 points, but Ward and Smith were equally important to the victory.
Ward had 16 points, six rebounds and several key assists while Smith contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.
“I just tried to attack,’’ Ward said. “Last time I didn’t attack them too hard, so this time I wanted to keep going hard at them.’’
East (15-9, 9-3) put together a solid third quarter at both ends of the floor, outscoring Oswego 22-13 to take a 47-34 lead into the final period.
“Usually after halftime we haven’t played too good, but we did the job,’’ said Ward, who scored seven points in the third quarter.
“I thought we pressured their guards a little more, made shots tough for them,’’ East coach Branden Adkins said of the third period.
“I liked the fact we were attacking the basket instead of settling for jump shots. Nick (Novak) got those two threes back-to-back.’’
Oswego (11-13, 6-6) fell behind 51-34 early in the fourth quarter, but got back in the game with a 20-7 streak. A three-pointer by Zach West (21 points) cut East’s lead to 58-54 with 27 seconds to play.
Jordan then made 4-of-4 free throws down the stretch to put East ahead 62-54 before a late three-pointer by Oswego. Steven Frank and Joe Hennessy both finished with 11 points.
“We were down big, went to full-court man. The kids played hard,’’ Oswego assistant coach Matt Borrowman said of the rally. “We made a few shots, got stops. We just fell a little bit short.’’
East has conference games left against Romeoville and Plainfield Central.
“We had a chance last Friday to make it a little easier on ourselves, and didn’t do it,’’ Adkins said. “I’m glad we were able to beat these guys because we lost at their place.
“I told our guys we’re playing for our basketball lives. Any mishap and we’re going to blow the conference championship. We’re going to blow the regional.’’