JOLIET – A good example of why Joliet Central’s boys basketball team is enjoying a successful season thus far can be seen from a quick glance at Tuesday’s score book.
In their Southwest Prairie Conference game against Plainfield East, the Steelmen’s first two points were free throws from Jose Grubbs, who had seven rebounds but failed to make any baskets and didn’t score again after that.
But despite that rough night for its scoring leader, Central grabbed the early lead and was in control throughout and went on to claim a 60-39 win over the Bengals at Steelmen Gym.
Ten other players scored as coach Lawrence Thompson Jr.’s Steelmen improved to 14-1 overall and 6-0 in the SPC after posting their 11th consecutive victory.
“We know that coach (Branden) Adkins does a great job and that even though he was down his best player, their kids play hard and we knew that it was going to be a fast-paced game,” Thompson said. “So it was good that all of our guys were ready to go and do the best that they could and it was great for all of the kids to get in. It was a good team win today.
“I try to get the kids to understand how important it is to be prepared to start a game. I didn’t know if we’d be ready to go since school just got back in a couple of days ago and sometimes the routine gets out of whack. All of our guys are confident offensively and practice hard against each other. So it’s just getting them in the mindset of practice carry-over.”
Jason Bingham scored all nine of his points on three first-quarter 3-pointers to help the Steelmen jump out to a 15-6 lead after one quarter against the Bengals (3-12, 1-4).
Ryan Saunders came off the bench to lead Central with 12 points while Cameron Blackmon added 10 points, Marcellus Hornsby had eight, Don Joachim scored five and Marcus Stone and Johnny Fuller added four points apiece. The Steelmen bench was responsible for 57 percent of their scoring (36 points).
“Everybody has each other’s back and no one’s selfish,” Hornsby said. “We’re all a team and in practice we go hard at each other and make each other work so in games it comes easy. If somebody’s off like Jose was, we pick them up. This shows what we’ve got coming off of the bench. Everybody on our bench has the ability to score, get rebounds and play defense.
“We take pride in our defense and we put that first before offense. We’re a family and we see each other as brothers, no more or no less. However we end, we did it together.”
The Steelmen led 24-13 at halftime before East closed the gap to 26-19 midway through the third following a layup from Yamani Shareef (13 points). But Central closed that period out with a 12-3 run to take a 38-22 advantage into the final quarter.
“This was a team effort,” Joachim said. “We work hard every day and never give up. Our starting five started us off right but the people on the bench are also ready to play. We’re all brothers and we all unite and that’s why we’re on this winning streak.
“It’s fun to play for coach Thompson. He works us hard and makes us work on fundamentals. We never play around with him, it’s serious business. The biggest thing going for us is we’re underdogs. Everybody thinks we’re not that good, so we’re going to keep working hard.”
East also received nine points from Vinny Tarello, five points from Mylan Walters, four points from Brian Robinson and seven rebounds from Justin Smith. Despite missing Collin Reed to a hand injury, Bengals coach Branden Adkins saw several positives from his young team.
“We stuck to the game plan and defended better than we had in most games,” Adkins said. “We went away from it when we kind of stopped attacking the basket and settled for some jump shots. They’re a really good defensive team and they make you panic a little bit and we did that in a couple of situations and they capitalized. But I liked the way that we started pushing the ball in transition and looking to attack.”