PLAINFIELD – As has been the case for many of his teammates, it's been a trying basketball season for Batavia senior guard Jeremy Schoessling.
Schoessling started early in the year, then lost his starting role and experienced periods of rocky play as the Bulldogs stumbled through a difficult season.
But the old saying that the postseason presents a fresh start rang true for Schoessling and the Bulldogs on Monday, as 19th seeded Batavia upset No. 14 seed Downers Grove South, 59-52, in an IHSA Class 4A Plainfield East Regional first-round game.
Schoessling entered play Monday averaging less than 4 points a game but his 12 second-half points against the Mustangs played a central role in the Bulldogs' victory, which advances Batavia to tonight's regional semifinal against Bolingbrook, the No. 3 seed in the 23-team East Aurora Sectional.
"Yeah, it was difficult, but you've got to keep grinding through it," Schoessling said of his season. "I've loved basketball my whole life. I also play baseball and I'm going to go to college to play baseball, so just knowing this is the last time I'm ever going to play basketball again, I just wanted to give it my all."
Batavia (8-17) trailed by one at halftime and after the third quarter. Schoessling scored the Bulldogs' final seven points of the third quarter, including a three-point play that brought the Bulldogs within 35-32 and a steal and score to trim the Mustangs' edge to 35-34.
Schoessling said coach Jim Nazos trusting him to guard Mustangs standout Danny Spinuzza provided a mental lift during the game.
"Coach Naz said to pressure him, don't let him get the ball easy," Schoessling said. "We wanted to not let him get the ball in his hands [at the end of the quarter], and the ball ended up in my hands."
Nazos was delighted to see Schoessling play such a crucial role in a postseason victory.
"He's gone through some tough times of the year, where he was unsure of every, single pass he was going to make," Nazos said. "He was unsure on his shot, and he just kind of stuck with it and worked his way out of it. It's 100 percent on him, sticking with it and doing the right thing."
Downers Grove South was fueled by its 3-point shooting this season but the Mustangs were only 6 of 22 from beyond the arc on Monday.
"I think it was their defense," Mustangs coach Kris Olson said. "I thought they did a great job of always having a hand in our face but making us have to work hard at coming off screens, too. And when we did have a good look, we were so rushed because we didn't have many good looks from the perimeter that our timing was off."
Batavia also did a solid job tracking long rebounds and outmuscling the Mustangs for position when need be. Junior forward Danny Pieczynski helped Batavia win the boards battle with 11 rebounds.
"We just were really being aggressive on the boards because they were smaller than us and we realized that, so we just used that to our advantage," Pieczynski said.
Brothers Micah Coffey (15 points) and Canaan Coffey (11) joined Schoessling in double figures for the Bulldogs. Pieczynski scored seven of his eight points in the fourth, making 5 of 6 free throws in the final 1:17 to help preserve the Bulldogs' lead.
Batavia limped through a 2-10 Upstate Eight Conference River season – beating last-place Streamwood twice – but Nazos said morale has remained steadfast.
"If you saw our practice three weeks ago, the first of the year, now, there's no difference in how this team has practiced," Nazos said. "They're deserving of any and all success that they get."
Continued success certainly won't come easy tonight against highly regarded Bolingbrook.
"They're a great team," Nazos said. "We're happy to be in a situation to play the game. They're good. I think there's a lot of things we have to do well tomorrow to give ourselves a shot."