CHANNAHON – Although Plainfield Central's boys basketball team jumped out to a fast start in Friday's Southwest Prairie Conference crossover game, it saw Minooka not only close the gap but actually stage a big turnaround in which it briefly moved in front.
So after his team scored the final six points of the opening half to take a 32-30 lead at the break, Wildcats coach Gregg Bayer looked for better things in the final half and that's what he got as Central regained control in the third quarter and went on to capture a 56-47 victory.
Plainfield Central (12-8, 6-4) snapped a two-game losing streak after outscoring the hosts 8-3 in the third quarter to go up 40-33 heading into the fourth quarter and led by as much as 15 points before Minooka, who's only won twice, collected the final points.
"Minooka's well-coached and is gritty and we got out-physicalled in the first half," Bayer said. "They had way too many offensive rebounds and five minutes into the first quarter and there's 10 fouls called, but part of that was that we were over-aggressive on defense at times and virtually had our whole starting five in foul trouble. But we've battled through adversity all year and we found a way to battle back from that in the second half and pulled it out.
"I don't care what a team's record is. When you go on the road, it's going to be tough. This conference is pretty well-balanced and everybody can give each other a fight. The idea is to peak at the end of the season. That's our goal and that's where we're headed."
Leading the way for the Wildcats was Mekhi Lunford, who scored all but two of his 15 points in the opening half, including the last six on a closing run to put them up for good.
"Our rebounding was a little shaky but I thought our on-ball pressure was pretty good," Lunford said. "What I like about our team is that when we come together and really get the ball moving and when we really get after it on the boards and play defense, that's when I feel that we're at our best. We took a couple of tough losses so it was really good to get a 'W'."
Other top scorers for the Wildcats were Tavari Johnson (11 points), Javari Johnson (10 points), Joseph Edozie (eight points, 10 rebounds), Brandon Shoemaker (six points) and Kameron Flowers (five points).
After scoring 11 points in the first half, Minooka's Trent Hudak struggled to score again but did get two late 3-pointers to give him a game-high 18 points. Jordan Boe came off of the bench to score 17 points and grab 11 rebounds while Steven Gonzalez added six points.
"When we get on a streak and we're sharing the basketball, we play well," Indians coach Kevin Cain said. "But then we get in a dry spell and give up some runs and don't get back into it. I always can count on my kids to play hard and they do that every day and that's a testament to a team that doesn't win a whole lot. They're willing to compete against whoever."