This wasn’t just another game for Noah Mason and his fellow Oswego East seniors.
Not by a longshot.
Their legacy was very much on their minds Friday, even without pregame senior night festivities.
The Wolves were playing host to West Aurora in the teams’ third meeting this season in a showdown that weighed heavily in the nip-and-tuck Southwest Prairie West title chase.
“It was huge,” Mason said. “We’ve won five in a row. We don’t want to end that streak this year. We knew this was probably the most important game of the year so far, so
“We came out with energy and played really well.”
Mason led the way in that regard, posting game highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds in a 65-44 victory that lifts the Wolves back into a familiar spot — first place by half a game.
A 6-foot-5 guard who has committed to Benedictine, Mason added three assists, a steal and a blocked shot for Oswego East (18-9, 10-3).
Senior guard Jordan Brooks paced West Aurora (16-9, 9-3) with 15 points.
“That’s one of his better games of his high school career, to be honest with you,” Oswego East coach Ryan Velasquez said of Mason. “He’s capable of doing that day in and day out.
“We don’t put any limits on our guys. I thought collectively, as a team, we rebounded pretty well. We talked about it going in. I heard somewhere something like 70% of the time you’re going to win if you win the rebounding battle.”
The Wolves, who won the first meeting with West Aurora 68-56 in the Hoops for Healing Tournament in the season opener and dropped a 69-51 conference game to the Blackhawks on Dec. 5, held a 30-19 edge on the boards Friday.
“We were thirsty for this one,” said Starwood, who leads the team in scoring with a 15.8 average. “We needed it. With all the losses we have in conference, we had to battle and make up for them.”
Noah Mason, second on the team in scoring with a 9.5 average, is tied with 6-4 sophomore guard Mason Lockett for the team lead in rebounding at 4.5 apiece.
Senior guard CJ Savage had 11 points for West Aurora.
“We wanted to apply pressure and prove we’re the better team after that hard loss,” Mason said. “We were playing a 1-3-1, 2-3 and man-to-man. We wanted to keep them on their toes.
“We couldn’t let them get hot or get momentum going because they can go on runs really quick. We wanted to slow them down as much as possible.”
Savage and Brooks were key, according to Velasquez.
“CJ is so quick with the ball like he has it on a string,” Velasquez said. “We wanted to get it out of his hands a little bit. We did at times. And we wanted to make things challenging for Brooks.
“We did that, too, at times, even though he had 15. We had to battle every possession.”
An 11-1 run to start, a 14-5 spurt in the second quarter and a 9-0 burst in the third were key for the Wolves.
“We weren’t ready — we didn’t compete,” West Aurora coach Michael Fowler said. “We have four games next week and no practice time. We’re tied with three losses, but it will be tough.
“We have to be better, especially against a team like that.”
Especially against an improving Mason.
“Last year, he was the guy who pushed us every single day in practice,” Velasquez said. “He didn’t see the floor, really at all last year. But he had a fantastic summer. We told him we saw the growth and it’s continued this season.
“He’s going to play next year. He has some size and his best basketball is definitely ahead of him. I wish he’d have games like that every night.”