HINSDALE – Rowan McGowen has hit several big shots during his high school basketball career.
There is no question as to which is the biggest.
McGowen came off a screen in the backcourt, received Jack Bennett's inbound pass and drove down the court before hitting a 3-pointer that lifted Wheaton North to a 55-53 win against Hinsdale South in a Class 4A sectional semifinal at Hinsdale Central March 8.
"Definitely No. 1, that was definitely the best shot I've ever hit," McGowen said. "I was just looking for what was open, and that was the most open shot available."
The bucket capped a team-best 18-point effort for McGowen and came moments after Hinsdale South's Karol Lipiszko drained a 3-pointer to give the Hornets a 53-52 lead, their first since early in the first quarter.
Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann called timeout after Lipiszko's basket. The play coming out of the huddle was designed to go to either McGowen or Luke Anthony. McGowen came free and the rest will go down in Wheaton North history.
"Luke was coming off one side and Rowan was coming off the other side. Get it one of those guys and go," Brackmann said. "Rowan was the one that popped open and was able to get up the floor, stop on a dime, shake that guy loose and fire it.
"Man, am I glad he made that shot."
Wheaton North (24-6) advances to face Naperville North in the sectional championship game March 10. It is Wheaton North's first sectional final appearance since 2002.
The Falcons fell twice to the Huskies in DuPage Valley Conference play this season by a combined four points.
"We know them well and they know us well," Brackmann said of Naperville North. "We'll enjoy this one for a couple hours, then we'll be ready to go practice tomorrow. I'm just really happy we get to go to practice and that this run's not over."
The Falcons were no doubt thrilled and relieved to advance, especially considering how tough the Hornets (19-12) made it.
McGowen scored seven points in the final minute and 10 in the fourth quarter to help fight off a Hinsdale South rally. The Falcons led by seven points midway through the third quarter but saw the Hornets continue to chip away.
"We could never really pull away," McGowen said. "When we would get it to five or seven points, they would make a run back. They're a great team and I'm glad we were able to pull it out in the end."
Anthony scored six of his 13 points in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave North a 10-5 lead. South cut the deficit to 12-11 at the end of the first and stayed in the game the whole way.
Zion Griffin scored a game-high 20 points for the Hornets, including a three that cut the margin to 51-50. He also assisted on Lipiszko's late trey. Lipiszko scored 11 and Diamond Anderson had six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Jack Bennett had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Wheaton North.
"There were so many big plays and they had the ball last," Hinsdale South coach Brett Moore said. "We've been lucky to hit a big shot and advance twice, and tonight we did it again but they got the last touch. It was a heck of a play. Destin Talbert is chasing [McGowen] down the floor, and a jump stop three. It's a heck of a play there at the end.
"This is one of best games most people in this gym have ever seen, at least the best finish."