With 54.6 seconds remaining in Friday night’s IHSA Class 3A regional championship game against Richmond-Burton, Johnsburg senior Mason Sobiesk picked up his fifth foul.
The Skyhawks had the game well in hand. Sobiesk walked to the sideline, took the first seat on the bench and wore a wide smile as his teammates finished off a 64-52 win over the Rockets.
Moments later, Sobiesk held the regional championship plaque high in the air while his teammates mobbed him.
“We’ve worked hard, always had that mentality to get here,” Sobiesk said. “We just never give up; it’s always work, work, work. I think that made a difference in the offseason, in the regular season and now when it comes to postseason, playoff basketball.”
Johnsburg’s win Friday was its first regional title since 2012. The Skyhawks take on Burlington Central at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 3A Woodstock North Sectional.
Sobiesk might not lead the Skyhawks in scoring every night (that honor usually goes to junior Zach Toussaint with 22.7 points a game), but the 6-foot-3 forward makes his presence felt in other ways on the court.
“He’s just a hard worker; he’s positive; he’s our leader,” head coach Mike Toussaint said. “When I’ve got to talk to the guys, I talk to him, and he relays the message.”
Sobiesk averages 12 points a game and leads the Skyhawks in rebounding at 5.5 boards a game. He is second among active players in scoring (Jackson LaMarche was averaging 12.7 points a game before being sidelined with an injury last month). He’s also third on the team in assists with 1.8 a game.
The second-year team captain will play at Division III Benedictine University next year. Mike Toussaint said Sobiesk wasn’t necessarily always the best player on his team coming up through junior high.
“I don’t think there’s any one particular thing that he’s really gotten better at,” Mike Toussaint said. “I think he’s gotten better every year at everything he does.”
Sobiesk said it was all about finding comfort on the court.
“It’s more of a confidence thing,” Sobiesk said. “I started hitting my stride sophomore year. When I came to varsity, it was just perfecting everything. My defense has come a long way, quickness, staying on [the] ball and playing defense.”
Johnsburg isn’t a team that will overpower anyone with its size. Sobiesk is one of the taller guys on the team, but he can play inside and out. He led the Skyhawks in rebounding last season as well.
Mike Toussaint said he has good instincts for where the ball is going to go and he gets the right positioning down low.
“For most times, it seems basic, but you’ve got to find someone,” Sobiesk said of rebounding. “That’s your job. The rest is inside, and you’ve got to go up and get it. It’s all about going and getting it. It’s a lot of grit and passion you’ve got to put into rebounding.”
He will need to make use of those abilities in a sectional semifinal against Burlington Central, a team the Skyhawks lost to twice during the regular season by double-digit margins.
But if anyone can take some positives away from those first two losses, it’s Sobiesk.
“I’ve never seen him down,” Zach Toussaint said. “Always positive. If I ever have my head down, he’s the first one there.”