WOODSTOCK – It took two quarters, but it finally registered for Woodstock North seniors Steven Whiting and Shane Zieman.
The Thunder entered halftime down by one against Marengo with full knowledge it could have been and should have been more. But the two guards didn’t want their season to end and took control in a 67-54 win over the Indians in the Class 3A Woodstock North Regional semifinals.
The Thunder will face Woodstock at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“I felt like we came out with a lot more energy in that second half than the first,” said Whiting, who led all scorers with 18 points. “We realized that [Marengo] wasn’t going to let us have it so we had to go out and take it.
“We realized that it could have been our last game and we didn’t want that. Us seniors tried to get our team motivated and put them on our back.”
Whiting started the Thunder on a 5-0 run to open the second half as he scored his team’s first five points to give them their biggest lead until that point. Marengo’s Weston Shepard connected on a 3-pointer, but Zieman answered with one of his own.
Zieman then cut through the lane for a layup under the arms of Marengo’s 6-foot-6 center Andrew Volkening. The Thunder scored 12 points in the first 2:40 of the third quarter before the Indians called a timeout.
“It was all energy and intensity,” Thunder coach Steve Ryan said of the difference in play between the two halves. “We know what these kids are capable of. We didn’t have that energy and intensity in the first half but we brought it in the second.
“We kept our same game plan and I told the kids in the locker room that ‘you need to bring some fight to this game,’ and they brought it. It’s good for Shane kick-start us there and to that kind of game for us.”
Zieman finished with 17 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Marengo’s Adam Rogutich had a team-high 15 points.
“That’s great for him,” Indians coach Dave Pettit said of the junior. “I thought we played well, but [the Thunder] took advantage of us in foul trouble and we didn’t get out to a bigger lead in the first half when we should have.”
“We’ve had two good ones so far,” he said. “We’ve got a great student section that will come out and the atmosphere will be great. It should be exciting. They’re a good basketball team, but I think that this team here is very capable of playing hard and getting the job done. We just need that intensity for all four quarters on Friday.”
Woodstock 59, Marian Central 36: After a slow start, Woodstock found its rhythm offensively.
Marian Central (4-27) started the game on a 5-2 run, but around midway through the quarter the Blue Streaks found their touch in a 6-0 run.
“I think we played a pretty balanced game,” Blue Streaks coach Al Baker said. “Early on we did get going the way we wanted, but our defense was solid enough to keep us afloat and once we started to shoot the ball a little bit better was when we started to take control.”
The Streaks (18-10) went on a 7-0 run early in the second quarter. Jordan Turner and Andy Buhrow connected on 3-pointers, while 6-foot-7 Damian Stoneking began to find his rhythm under the basket.
At halftime the Streaks’ lead was 22-12. When the third quarter began more shots began to fall for the Streaks as Buhrow made all three of his 3-point attempts and Turner added another along with four more points in the lane.
“We just really needed a moment to relax and get warmed up,” said Turner, who scored a game-high 22 points. “Once we got loose we did just fine.
“Speaking of getting loose, I think the [snow storm] hurt Marian more than it did us. They came off a win, and to give them a day off brought them back to earth, and I think it helped us a bit.”
“With the zone we play the idea if trying to funnel the ball in the middle and we try to create opportunities for him to block and alter shots at the rim,” Baker said of Stoneking. “... We’re ready to play on Friday because we didn’t come just for a final appearance.”