JOLIET – Don’t let it be said basketball is not a crazy game.
A week ago, Minooka was leading Plainfield North by 20 points early in the fourth quarter and lost.
In Saturday night’s nonconference game at Joliet Catholic, the Indians trailed the Hilltoppers by 16 points with seven minutes remaining. You guessed it. Minooka scored 28 fourth-quarter points after having 21 through three quarters and exited with a 49-45 victory.
“It’s much better to be on the other side of one of these,” Indians forward Joe Butler said. “I think it was a little bit of lesson learned. The way North came back on us is they kept taking it to the hole and stopped the clock. We did the same tonight.”
Indeed, Minooka (4-4) made 21 of 25 free throws in the fourth quarter after being 2 of 4 previously. Jon Butler led the fourth-quarter parade to the line, hitting 10 of 12. Larry Roberts was 5 of 6, Nick Clemmons 4 of 5 and Joe Butler 4 of 6.
Josh Mander’s two clutch free throws with 34 seconds left gave JCA (5-6) a 45-41 lead and made it a two-possession game. But Jon Butler made one, JCA missed a one-and-one and Joe Butler hit two with 18 seconds left to make it 45-44.
The Hilltoppers were without starting guards Jalen Jackson and Harold Davis at crunch time, both having fouled out. They turned the ball over and Nick Clemmons, who hit four 3-pointers earlier and finished with 18 points, converted a traditional three-point play for a 47-45 Minooka lead with 11 seconds left.
JCA misfired on a 3-point try and Jon Butler was fouled and made two free throws with 3 seconds to go to end it.
“It was a good lesson learned,” Minooka coach Scott Tanaka said. “We told the guys, if North can do it, why not us.
“[JCA coach Joe Gura] does such a good job of taking you out of what you want to do. Once we got that sense of urgency in the fourth quarter, we started making big plays. Before that we weren’t doing what we needed to do to get to the line. At the end we got the sense of urgency and knocked down the big free throws.”
Jon Butler finished with 12 points, Roberts with 11 and Joe Butler with eight. Along with Clemmons, they were the only Indians to score.
Drake Fellows led JCA with 12. Davis had 10, Pete Ragen nine, Mander seven and Jackson six. The Hilltoppers shot 59 percent through three quarters and 53.3 percent for the game.
“I hugged our players afterward and thanked them for a great week of work,” Gura said. “We lost key players all through this game to foul trouble, yet we hung in there. We played a really good game.
“I thought it was interesting the disparity in free throws in the fourth quarter (when JCA was 4 of 7) when both teams were playing physical, and we were ahead. But I abide by their calls. They made them and they were correct. We just have to take care of the ball better when the game gets physical like this.”