The rubber match went to Newark, but not without a battle.
The second-seeded Norsemen held off No. 3-seeded Somonauk 50-42 Wednesday in the third meeting of the Little Ten rivals. It sends Newark to Friday’s title game of the Class 1A Somonauk Regional against top seed Mooseheart, which rolled past Serena 81-41 in the first semifinal.
“They’re humongous,” Newark sophomore forward Jack Clausel said of Mooseheart after leading his team with 16 points. “We’ll have to play a perfect game to stay within striking distance.”
Somonauk, which closes at 13-15, was within striking distance of the Norsemen all night.
The Bobcats trailed through three quarters but had cut the margin to 32-30 entering the fourth, getting their usual strong inside-out game from senior Reece Bode and a strong defensive effort from Scott Thomas, who face-guarded Newark point guard Will Clausel in an attempt to disrupt the Norsemen attack.
A Marcus Alstadt three-pointer 52 seconds into the fourth gave Somonauk its only lead at 33-32. Newark answered with a 7-2 run, featuring a three-pointer by sophomore Evan Schomer and baskets by Schomer and Jack Clausel off assists from Will Clausel.
The margin was back down to one — 39-38 — when freshman reserve Steve McGrath came up with a steal and layup to keep the Bobcats at bay. Newark then made eight of 12 free throws to seal it.
“Did it seem like there was a lid on the basket in the first half,” Newark coach Rick Tollefson said. “I thought so. It felt like we could have had a bigger lead.”
Schomer finished with 13 points while Bode led Somonauk with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Alstadt added 15 for the Bobcats, who had lost to Newark by 20 early in the season but came back to win 64-57 a few weeks back in the final of the LTC Tournament on their home floor.
“I have to credit our kids for their gritty play,” Somonauk coach Ron Hunt said. “[Newark] built a little lead but we got back in it and actually led. The seniors did a great job.
“We were trying to work the ball inside with the lead. They extended their defense (3-2 zone) and we stalled for a bit there. We thought they would do that but they got a couple deflections and a couple steals and turned them into easy baskets.”