Minooka’s busy week ends at Plainfield EastMinooka’s Anthony Thomas (11) drives to the basket against
Plainfield East’s Jawan Straughter (10) during the first half in Channahon, Friday December, 16, 2011.
| Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 2, 2012 9:08PM
That’s what Minooka boys basketball coach Scott Tanaka calls this meaty portion of the Southwest Prairie Conference schedule.
His Indians (17-6, 8-1) began their busy spell with a 43-32 victory Tuesday night at home against Plainfield South. The make-up of the game postponed a couple of weeks ago because of the snowstorm was Wednesday night, and Minooka traveled to Oswego East and won 56-41.
And now, the Friday night we all have been anticipating. Minooka at Plainfield East (18-1, 9-0), the No. 1-ranked team in the area, with a 7 p.m. tip. East won 54-53 Dec. 16 at Minooka.
If you want to term this the game of the year in our area, go right ahead. If you want to see it, my suggestion is to arrive early. If you want to listen, WJOL-AM (1340) has switched its broadcast schedule to this game.
The conference ramifications are obvious. The full SPC schedule consists of 14 games, so if the Bengals win, the Indians will need serious help to catch them.
If the Indians win, not only will they draw even in the standings, they’ll have another positive on the resume heading into next week, when ballots will be cast for sectional seeds. Minooka this year is in the Lockport Sectional rather than being sent south to face the Normals and Normal Wests of the world.
“Our regional would have been in Danville this year,” Tanaka said. “We’re tired of seeing Normal and Normal West. It will be nice to see local teams in the regional.
“But we’re not worried about the sectional or the seedings. For now, we just want to play our best basketball.”
Coaches sometimes like to have time to prepare for the big game, rather than having it be the third tough match-up in four days. Plainfield South and Oswego East, as Tanaka noted, “both are good, well-coached teams.”
Tanaka, though, appreciates the approach the Indians have taken.
“I’m proud of the way our guys have taken it one game at a time,” he said. “They’ve been able to really focus. You find out a lot about a team in a week like this. It would have been easy to look ahead to Friday, but our guys didn’t do that.
“Whether it’s good to be playing a big game like this at the end of a busy week, you could spin that 30 different ways. Sometimes you want more time to prepare, sometimes it’s better to be in a playing mode. At this point in the season, you do get sick and tired of practicing against the same guys every day.”
Minooka’s starters are point guard Darrin Myers, guards Jake Hogen and Ben Heide and forwards Adam Reynolds and Lavell Dean. Anthony Thomas, Nick Casimir Lang and Adam Holstine have been prime reserves.
“The best thing about our team, I love that we have five to eight guys who come to play every day,” Tanaka said. “All five starters have bought into what we have preached, and Jake Hogen has started to shoot the ball real well. Thomas, Casimir Lang and Holstine have done a phenomenal job off the bench sustaining and in some cases increasing the leads we have had.”
When East visited Minooka in December, the Bengals’ Des’Nique Harris enjoyed a huge game, scoring 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including 14 in a 21-4 first-half run. The Indians finished the game on a 9-1 run but fell a point short.
“We played well that game and have gotten better every day since then, which is all we could have hoped for,” Tanaka said. “We’ve been in a little groove right now, and this one will be a great test.”
Minooka knows it will face serious pressure from East’s quick defense and an explosive offense the defense ignites. The Bengals, except for Harris, shot poorly at Minooka, and a challenge for the Indians, in the face of a hostile crowd, will be to limit the good looks and easy baskets the Bengals get.
“Coach (Branden) Adkins does a great job at Plainfield East,” Tanaka said. “They play team ball. They are athletic and well-coached.
“But we are accustomed to playing on the road, so that should not matter. I believe this is our sixth conference game on the road and we’re looking forward to going there.
“One of our goals was to win the conference championship and we are trying to do that. It will be fun.”