Boys Basketball: Clutch free throws boost Joliet Central past Plainfield NorthJoliet Central's #22 Jonah Coble drives to the basket in front of Plainfield North's #14 Kurt Palandech held at the Joliet Central's Martin Luther King Tournament on Monday, January 16, 2012. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 16, 2012 10:31PM
After a long day of tight basketball games, including two overtime battles, why not finish with one more heart-stopper.
In a scrap between two teams needing a victory, Joliet Central made the clutch free throws in the closing minutes to secure a 64-62 win over Plainfield North in the finale of Monday’s MLK Day of Hoops at Joliet Central.
Curtis Parker, Jonah Coble and Jalen Heath hit the big foul shots as the Steelmen (7-9) erased the foul taste of three straight poor offensive performances.
Maybe it was the change of routine.
“We went bowling Saturday to change things up,” Central coach Jeff Corcoran said. “We played music at yesterday’s shootaround – no coaching supervision.
“I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but we did get better looks offensively tonight. It wasn’t always pretty, but you know the adage, a win is a win is a win.”
Coble led Central with 14 points. Heath had 13 and John Aversa 12 on four three-pointers.
North (3-14) has been without Jamal Robinson (broken hand) for a while. Center Corey Evak rolled his ankle in practice Sunday and missed the game, and senior guard Jeremy Bert rolled his ankle midway through the third quarter and played very little after that.
Still, the Tigers got within 63-62 with 5 seconds left when Jake Nowak, with along with fellow freshman Trevor Stumpe made contributions off the bench, hit a three-pointer. But it wasn’t enough.
“Our team has been playing hard and with heart, but the little things good teams do, we are not doing consistently,” Tigers coach Nick DiForti said. “This game was an example of that.”
Bert and Marcus Fair each scored 12 points and Kendal Interial 11 for North. Central appeared to have conquered its recent offensive woes from the get-go. The Steelmen were getting the ball inside for easy baskets in building leads of 10-2 at the 4:15 mark of the first quarter and 16-11 at the 1:45 mark.
But suddenly, the points became more difficult to come by, and North battled back into it with improved rebounding and deadly free throw shooting. The Tigers, in fact, hit 12-of-14 free throws un the second quarter, when they tied the game 20-20 and led twice by four points before settling for a 27-25 halftime lead.
The second half was a seesaw battle until Central did enough good things down the stretch to escape.