Plainfield E zeroed in on No 1 sectional seedDick Goss, The Herald News Sports Editor
Updated: February 28, 2012 5:51PM
Before Friday’s huge Southwest Prairie Conference boys basketball game between Minooka and Plainfield East, Bengals coach Branden Adkins discussed his team’s potential for gaining the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Aurora East Sectional.
Considering strength of schedule, he thought his Bengals’ one-loss resume was a little bit better than Metea Valley’s one-loss resume. Take care of business that night, as well as Saturday night against Naperville North, and the Bengals should be voted No. 1.
I countered with the thought there are more coaches in the sectional who see Metea Valley regularly than see Plainfield East. From that standpoint, perhaps Metea Valley would be No. 1.
Yes, Plainfield East still must beat Plainfield North on Tuesday night. The sectional coaches have a 10 a.m. Wednesday deadline to submit their season summaries and a noon Thursday deadline to perform their online seeding. But what happened over the weekend should help guarantee the Bengals the No. 1 seed.
East, ranked No. 1 in the Joliet area, won a 48-41 overtime thriller over Minooka before whipping better-than-average Naperville North 70-48. Metea Valley, meanwhile, suffered its second loss, 73-72 in overtime Saturday to Hinsdale Central.
The way the IHSA sets up sectional complexes, each of four predetermined regional sites in each sectional will contain the host school, one and only one of the 1-4 seeds and one 5-8 seed.
The top four seeds could be Plainfield East (20-1), Metea Valley (20-2), West Aurora (18-3) and Downers Grove South (18-4), with several good candidates out there for the 5-8 seeds. Metea Valley and Downers Grove South are regional hosts, along with Neuqua Valley and Oswego.
It will not be an easy sectional to negotiate by any means. If the seeds hold, the semifinal match-ups will be 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3. As noted, there are at least four outstanding teams in the field. But when you consider the assets East has in its arsenal, why shouldn’t the Bengals be capable of making an extended postseason run?
First, there’s 6-foot-9 post player Brian Bennett. He’s about 45 pounds lighter this season than last, runs the floor, rebounds, knows how to use his body to fend off defenders and has offensive skills.
Then there’s pressure defense and all that athleticism and scoring ability around Bennett. On a given night, the offensive support comes from any of fellow seniors Dee Brown, Austin Robinson, Myles Walters, Mack Brown, Jawan Straughter, Des’Nique Harris or some combination thereof.
Minooka was on top of its game Friday night, dictating tempo while holding the Bengals to 12 first-half points on 3-of-17 shooting. “We don’t like playing at that tempo, but we can do it,” Bennett said. “Sometimes it’s just hard to buy baskets no matter what tempo you’re playing.”
By late in the third quarter, however, East led 30-21 as Bennett scored 10 points during a 12-0 run. “It’s no joke that they were able to come back and take control,” Minooka coach Scott Tanaka said. “There’s a reason for the record they have.”
“That we were able to come back like that is a testament to this team,” Adkins said. “We were down 27-10 against Washington (in the title game of the Pekin Holiday Tournament) and never gave up. We know if we continue to do things the right way, it will go our way eventually.”
Minooka rallied to force overtime behind the deadly three-point shooting of Jake Hogen. But the Bengals recharged the defensive battery and re-established control in overtime, thus taking a two-game lead over Minooka in the SPC race.
“When teams have to face our pressure over a 32-minute game, we tend to wear them out at some point,” Adkins said. “Our guys are like sharks in the water.”
Later this week, we will know whether those sharks earned the No. 1 seed in a deep, high-quality sectional. If there is any justice, it will happen.