Girls basketball: Plainfield South’s speed, defense proves too much for Joliet Catholic

Cougars end half on 13-point run, go on to 68-43 win

Plainfield South’s Tierra Abner drives to the basket against Joliet Catholic on Monday, Jan. 29th, 2024 in Joliet.

JOLIET – The Angels of Joliet Catholic were hanging in against a quicker Plainfield South squad into the middle of the second quarter.

Then the Cougars’ trio of Jazlynn Foster, Destynia McGruder and Tierra Abner stepped up, combining for 10 of Plainfield South’s 13-point run to end the half and effectively decide Monday’s nonconference game.

The final was 68-43, but the 33-14 difference at the intermission told the story. The Cougars’ speed and defense were too much for the younger Angels, who had closed a 13-1 deficit to 19-14.

“We just lock in on the defensive side,” Cougars coach Alana Warren said. “Once we figured it out … our offense comes from our defense.”

Plainfield South (16-8) forced the Angels (5-23) into 18 turnovers, and although they committed 21 themselves, it didn’t seem to hurt. They kept chasing the ball.

“We’re a heavy defensive team,” Warren added. “That’s all we care about. Then we get easy buckets.”

Abner, a junior, came off the bench to lead the Cougars with a season-high 18 points, including a 3-pointer and 10-foot jumper in the deciding run. Usually a starter, Abner missed a practice over the weekend because of a family situation, but with the Cougars playing the first of seven games in 11 days because of snowstorm cancellations, she’ll likely be back among the starters promptly.

“I don’t think it was our best game, but we were just trying to move the ball,” Abner said. “We tried to play together, because it’s getting close to regionals. We want the best [possible] regional seed. I feel a lot of people underestimated us. We’re going to surprise a lot of teams.”

Joliet Catholic’s Abby Dulinsky works the ball against Plainfield South’s Destynia McGruder on Monday, Jan. 29th, 2024 in Joliet.

Abner was complemented by McGruder’s 16 points and Foster’s 14.

“We didn’t have that push when we tried to cut it further,” Angels coach George Shimko said. “We get down, and it takes so much effort to get back in it, we don’t have the gas to keep the pedal down and keep moving.

“Our younger players aren’t used to that physicalness. Our goal right now is to get ready for start. We have a very competitive 3A-4A schedule, and we’re in 2A.”

The Angels were led by Sophia Mihelich, who connected on 6 of 12 3-pointers and finished with 19 points to shine on senior night. Her four baskets from beyond the arc in the third quarter helped keep the score respectable. Abby Dulinsky, the next Angel on the scoresheet, had five points.

The Cougars’ arduous schedule continues Tuesday night at Joliet West, then at Plainfield East on Thursday. Four of their last six games before the playoffs are on the road, one reason 11 players saw more than token action.

“We’ve got to rest our bodies,” Warren said.