Then Andrew Soenksen took over. The Bengals’ 6-foot-8 senior keyed a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter in a 78-64 victory.
“In the fourth quarter, we just did what we do,” Soenksen said. “We play together really well. Our defense can really fly around. Coach [Kanwar] Sarkaria has a great scheme where we try to speed up the other team and capitalize on turnovers, which we were able to do.
Soenksen, who finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, started the fourth with a putback basket, then went outside to hit a 3-pointer. He then assisted on a basket by Jet Jones before hitting a pair of free throws to give East (5-1, 2-0) some breathing room.
“It’s always great to beat another Plainfield school. It’s always a great atmosphere whenever two Plainfield schools play.”
The Bengal onslaught continued through the fourth quarter, with Soenksen making 3 of 4 free throws before bringing the house to its collective feet with a dunk on a fast break with 1:35 remaining to give East a 75-59 lead and put the exclamation point on the win.
“I was looking for a dunk all game,” Soenksen said. “I was glad I was able to get one.”
Jones finished with 12 points for East, while DeSean Miller added nine, Caleb Jackson scored eight and Ehi Ogbomo added seven.
On the defensive end, the Bengals created havoc all night, forcing 21 turnovers and only allowing two field goals to the Wildcats in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 21-10.
“It’s a little bit of controlled chaos,” Sarkaria said. “Our guards really pressure the ball well. Guys like Caleb Jackson, Jet Jones and Ehi Ogbomo give up a little bit of offensive energy to play hard on the defensive side. Then, we create offense from our defense.
“Sometimes we go a little too fast for our own good. I compare it to the movie, ‘The Mighty Ducks,’ where the character Mendoza can skate really fast, but he always goes into the boards because he can’t slow down. Sometimes, we have trouble slowing down.
“We have to learn a little restraint when we are coming back on offense, but we’ll get there.”
Sarkaria was also overjoyed with the performance of Soenksen.
“I have been screaming from the mountain tops that he [Soenksen] needs more attention,” Sarkaria said. “He is unselfish and sacrifices for the good of the team. He has come so far the last two years. It’s great to see him have a game like this.”
Drey Wisdom led Plainfield Central (1-5 0-2) with 20 points, including nine in the third quarter, while Avery Ragoz (team-high 10 rebounds) and Colin Bailye (eight rebounds) each scored seven.
The Wildcats kept the game much closer than the final score indicates through the first three quarters. They led 29-28 with 3:14 to play in the second quarter, but trailed 39-33 at halftime as Soenksen keyed the Bengals with a putback bucket and hit a three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.
Wisdom had the big third quarter to keep the game close, and the Wildcats cut a 57-50 deficit to 57-54 at the end of the period on baskets by Lenard Donker and Bailye.
“We just couldn’t buy a bucket in the fourth quarter,” Plainfield Central coach Anton Wilkins said. “We got stops defensively, but we didn’t do anything with them. We got some great efforts from guys like Drey Wisdom, Anton Ragoz and Colin Bailye. Those guys are emerging, which is good to see.
“The kids are working hard, and our identity will be our defense. We just need to build some confidence.”