CHANNAHON – Minooka boys basketball coach Kevin Cain said he put a picture of a Swiss Army knife on the bulletin board in his team’s locker room.
That was to remind his players that everyone has to do a little bit of everything in order for the team to be successful.
The Indians played their roles perfectly Friday night in a 42-39 win over Southwest Prairie Conference rival Plainfield East.
Senior point guard Ricky Hill did what he has been doing all season, leading the scoring charge. Plainfield East limited Hill to four points in the first half, but Hill erupted for 17 points in the second half to help power the Indians (11-7, 6-3 SPC) to the win.
“Ricky Hill stepped up,” Cain said. “He got 17 of his 21 points in the second half when we needed them. With Trevor [Hudak] being held scoreless, Ricky needed to pick up the scoring load. But Trevor does so much else for us. He rebounds, he calms things down, and he draws defenders. Even if he hasn’t scored, the other team can’t leave him alone, and that opens things up for other guys.”
Minooka held a 32-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Plainfield East (6-11, 3-5) got a 3-pointer from Jayden Silva to take a 34-32 lead. Hill answered with a spinning drive in the lane and scored again to put Minooka ahead, 36-34 with 6:14 remaining. Both teams’ defenses stiffened, and that was the score at the mask break with 3:39 to play.
Coming out of the break, East’s Bryant Tchoffa hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 36, but Hill answered with a baseline jumper for a 38-36 Indian advantage. Silva, who led East with 10 points, made the first of two free throws with 1:38 left to make it 38-37 before Hill made a pair of free throws for a 40-37 lead with 1:21 to go. With 43.7 seconds left, East’s Andrew Soenksen scored to make it 40-39. Minooka was able to hold the ball, thanks to some nifty ballhandling by Hill, and finally scored on a lob from Adrian Manning to Darren Anderson with 6.4 seconds left. Silva had a 3-point attempt at the buzzer, but it fell short.
“We know coming in here, it’s going to be a tough game,” East coach Michael Fowler said. “The boys played really good defense tonight. We had Bryant Tchoffa on No. 5 [Hudak}, who is one of the best scorers in the conference, and he didn’t have any points.
“We had a look at the end, but it didn’t go in. That’s basketball. If you were going to tell me that we were going to go on the road and hold a team to 42 points, I would like our chances. But, the shots just didn’t go in often enough for us.”
Minooka opened the game with an 8-0 run, the first six scored by Cade Ooms, before East scored with 1:31 to play in the first on a basket by Donovan Byrd. The Bengals continued to chip away at the lead before finally tying it at 15 with a 6-0 spurt of their own, getting baskets by Soenkson (seven points) and layups by Tchoffa and Josh Whitehurst. Manning countered with a steal and a layup of his own to give Minooka a 17-15 lead, and a pair of free throws by Hill put Minooka ahead 19-15. Soenksen drained a three-pointer to make it 19-18 at halftime.
East took a 20-19 lead on a pair of free throws by Tchoffa to start the second half and went ahead, 22-19, on a basket by Whitehurst. Hill scored to bring Minooka to within 22-21, and Anderson drove the lane for a basket and a 23-22 Indians lead. Byrd then converted a three-point play for East before Hill tied it with a driving basket. Silva drained a 3-pointer for a 28-25 East lead before Hill sank a pair of free throws and Manning scored with 1:06 left in the quarter. Ibrahim Mobayed made a free throw for East to tie it at 29 before Hill converted a three-point play. Caleb Jackson tossed in a floater in the lane for East to make it 32-31 entering the fourth.
“It seems like we’ve had a lot of tight games like this,” Cain said. “We’ve been competitive in every game. We had to fight and grind this one out, but the mark of a good team is when you can do that and win. We hope we can keep this roll going.”