PLAINFIELD – Sophomore Christian Lucas, who’s not even on the program’s roster, hit a free throw to lift Plainfield North to a 38-all deadlock with Joliet Central with 7:15 left in their game Tuesday night.
Despite Central’s pressure, the Tigers had been good enough to lead,
17-8, and then erase a five-point deficit.
The last 7:15 was a different story, as the pressure was turned up another click or two.
That, plus a pair of timely 3-pointers on back-to-back shots from Johnny Fuller, helped make the difference in Joliet Central’s 61-46 Southwest Prairie Conference victory on the road.
“The first one, I was open, so I took it,” Fuller said. “Second one, same thing. I felt I was getting hot.
“Defensively, we just have to pick up the pace a little bit. We were slacking a little bit and started pressing more.”
For Steelmen coach Lawrence Thompson Jr., the finish was according to plan.
“The kids just really understood how the game was going, and we played good defense without reaching,” Thompson said. “We got steals, but just let it happen. Before that, the whole night, we were trying to make things happen that weren’t there.”
He’d mixed his lineup until about 6:30 remained, then went exclusively with his starters. That also worked.
“You’ve got to have the patience to stay the course,” Thompson said. “Our identity is to keep pressure on teams, make them play a little faster than they want to. This was a tough matchup for us.”
Thompson can afford to be a perfectionist. The Steelmen are 13-2, 6-0 in the SPC, and have won 11 of their last 12.
Plainfield North fell to 8-8, 2-4 in the SPC, and are 4-2 in their last six.
Fuller and Ryan Saunders each scored 16 points for the Steelmen, with Cameron Blackmon adding 11 and Don Joachim getting 10.
Brady Miller and Carter Thurman each scored 14 for the Tigers, though Thurman was blanked in the final quarter.
For Tigers coach Robert Krahulik, it was a mixed result.
“If you weren’t here and just saw the score, you’d think they killed us,” Krahulik said.
But it was something close to that in the final 7:15.
“We started taking quick shots,” he said. “They picked up their pressure and we couldn’t handle it. Once they stretched [the lead], we started forcing it.”
It was 46-40 after Fuller’s second 3-pointer with 5:35 to play. An eight-point Steelmen outburst in a 49-second span made the final 2:12 academic.