Plainfield East at Minooka — it’s big this timeMinooka’s Adam Reynolds (44) drives to the basket between
Joliet Catholic’s Keith Craig (2) and Sean Chamberlin (40) during the first half in Minooka
Saturday December, 10, 2011.| Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 15, 2011 6:54PM
The competition has been fierce.
Plainfield North, Plainfield South, Plainfield Central, Oswego, Oswego East. Whenever you attempted to handicap the Southwest Prairie Conference boys basketball race in recent years, those schools were among the contenders.
Plainfield East and Minooka, along with Romeoville, fell into that “don’t forget about them category.” On any given night, they could jump up and bite you.
Times appear to have changed, however. When Plainfield East visits Minooka on Friday night, it will be a battle for first place in the conference. East (6-0, 2-0) is the No. 1 team in The Herald-News area rankings, while Minooka (6-1, 2-0) is No. 3.
Both count significant varsity experience among their assets.
East, under coach Branden Adkins, thrives on pressure defense, which creates scoring opportunities. In senior guard Dee Brown, the Bengals have one of the most explosive scorers in the area. They also have the big man in the post, Brian Bennett, and depth. Austin Robinson, Mack Brown, Myles Walters, DesNique Harris and Jawan Straughter all contribute regularly.
If East can create turnovers against Minooka and score off those turnovers, it may be a long night for the Indians.
But that’s where Indians junior point guard Darrin Myers comes in. If he can help take care of the ball in the face of the Bengals’ pressure, Minooka will have opportunities to get into its offense.
The Indians, under coach Scott Tanaka, can be difficult to defend because they are balanced. Ben Heide and Jake Hogen can shoot and have excellent range, and Adam Reynolds and Lavell Dean get their share of points from inside and medium range. All four are varsity veterans.
The players on both sides have begun to turn the corner. They have gotten to the point where they can compete in these big games. For evidence, East pounded Oswego a week ago, while Minooka fell behind early and then recovered to win at Plainfield South. Neither of those outcomes happens by accident.
The players on both sides who will be on the court Friday night have paid their dues. They have had a taste of success and are primed to take another huge step forward in their conference.
Of course, there can be only one winner. It will be fun watching this one unfold.
Another local team with an interesting game Friday night is Joliet Central, which visits Sandburg. A year ago, you would not have given the Steelmen (5-2, 2-0) much of a chance to win very many road games in the SouthWest Suburban Blue.
But with an influx of young talent, and despite a lack of size, that thinking is changing. Maybe coach Jeff Corcoran’s team can steal one in Orland Park and maintain a share of the league lead.
Central is not yet approaching the status of title contender in the conference. But the Steelmen already are more competitive than many thought would be the case, and they offer the hope of continued improvement.
Joliet West (6-2, 1-1) figured to have a successful season with big man Marlon Johnson leading the way. The Tigers visit Lincoln-Way Central on Friday night in their final game before the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, which is scheduled Dec. 28-30.
Scorers always attract attention, and Johnson is averaging 15.0 points. He also averages an area-best 13.0 rebounds and is a shot-blocking machine. So if you appreciate aspects of the game other than scoring and have not gotten out to see the Tigers yet, Johnson will be worth your while. He will be a center of attention at Pontiac, guaranteed.