JOLIET – Coming off a rare postseason victory, Plainfield South’s girls basketball team was hoping to capitalize on its home court by trying to upset Minooka in the regional semifinal in the rubber match between the Southwest Prairie Conference rivals.
With a berth in Friday’s 7 p.m. championship game against either Yorkville or Oswego on the line, the Indians did their best to derail that plan by jumping out to a big early lead and then keeping the Cougars at bay the rest of the way as they captured a 68-52 victory.
Cierra Bachmann had 13 points in each half to lead all scorers with 26 points as Minooka (22-8) jumped out to an 18-5 advantage late in the first quarter and then extended it to 33-12 before settling for a 36-17 halftime lead.
“Give credit to Lincoln (DePaula) and the job he’s done here, because in years past that type of comeback wouldn’t have happened,” Minooka coach Ray Liberatore said. “That was the third time that we’ve played them and in all three games, the team that won got out to a nice lead. It takes so much energy to close a gap like that.
“We’ve been playing well and Cierra was just amazing. She played all 32 minutes tonight on both ends of the court. I’ve never had a girl who impacts the game as much as she does defensively. And I thought another key was that we were stuck, but Sophie (Darden) is not afraid to take a tough shot. One thing you can count on her for is that she’ll make big baskets.”
Other top scorers for the Indians were Savannah Johnson (13 points), Jenna Roberts (10 points) and Sophie Darden (nine points, nine rebounds).
“Both teams were really pushing, and you could tell that both teams wanted to win,” Indians senior Sydney Andreano said. “We definitely have a good record, and we’ve picked it up in the second half of the season. We’ve had a lot of bonding on and off the court, and that’s really helped us. Our team has a lot of heart, we all leave it on the court and work well together. We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses.”
While Minooka extended its lead to as much as 42-17 early in the third quarter, the Cougars were determined to not go down without a fight, as they managed to cut the deficit to 47-33 with eight minutes remaining.
With Shannon Smith leading the way with 19 points, which included four second-half 3s, South continued to chip away and got to within 11 points on a couple of different instances during the fourth quarter before the Indians finally were able to wrap up the game.
Other top performers for the Cougars were Anya Brooks (10 points, 12 rebounds), Samantha Lordan (10 points) and Miranda Cadwell (seven points, six rebounds).
“The last time we played them we came out on fire, and then they made a run,” Cougars coach Lincoln DePaula said. “Today, we just couldn’t hit shots, and they’re a tough team and are better than when we last faced them. We’ve improved and have gotten better throughout the season, but obviously tonight, while our defense was there and putting on the pressure, they were the better team and made more shots than we did, and that was the bottom line.”