PLAINFIELD – The formula was simple enough.
All the Plainfield North boys basketball team had to do in Thursday night’s Southwest Prairie Conference battle with Romeoville was play good defense, take care of the ball and have long possessions on offense that hopefully would result in some easy baskets.
The execution part was more of a challenge. Or at least it seemed it would be.
However, the Tigers (12-11, 5-6) came out and played like champions, securing a 57-53 upset victory with solid free-throw shooting in the final minute and a half.
“This is huge,” said North senior forward Brady Miller, who led the Tigers with 20 points. “What is this for us, four in a row? We finally have something going.
“We played good basketball. We knew we could play with them.They’re really athletic, and we wanted to slow them and get them into a half-court game with our offense.”
North made 20 of 37 shots, 54.1 percent. That will happen when your patience results in good looks.
“We handled their pressure and got good looks and some back cuts and layups,” North coach Bob Krahulik said. “It’s the best we have run our offense all year. It was nice to watch.”
Junior guard/forward Matt O’Boye chipped in 17 points for North, 13 in the second half, when he hit 4 of 5 shots and 4 of 5 free throws. Carter Thurman scored nine and had a couple of quality assists.
“We needed that from him,” Krahulik said of O’Boye. “We needed a third scoring option [in addition to Miller and Thurman].”
Romeoville (17-6, 9-2) was without its head coach, Marc Howard, for most of the night because of a work commitment. His brother, Ken Howard, with assistance from James Foster, ran the show for the Spartans.
Romeoville came out hot, taking leads of 7-0 and 10-3. But a 10-0 run gave North a 13-10 lead after one quarter, and after that, it was game on.
It was tied at 27-27 at half as reserve Billy Ellinghaus hit a go-ahead 3-pointer for North with five seconds left in the half, and Eddie Creal matched it for Romeoville with a 28-foot bank shot at the buzzer.
The Tigers broke away from a 34-34 tie to lead, 40-34, after three quarters, but back came the Spartans. Khalil Blakney’s 3-pointer at the 4:39 mark tied it, and Mike Salter’s 3 with 4:09 left gave Romeoville its last lead at 46-45.
It was O’Boye time. Concluding a long possession, he hit an open 3-pointer from the corner, then scored a layup off a feed from Thurman to make it 50-46 with 2:17 remaining. Miller made two free throws, O’Boye knocked down four straight and then Ryan Summers made the clincher with 0:09 left to account for the final score.
Creal finished with 17 points for Romeoville. Dontia Johnson, who converted a huge three-point play with 0:52 to go to get the Spartans within 54-51, chipped in nine and Destin Whitaker had seven.
The Spartans were 7 of 15 from 3-point land.
“They made a lot of threes, but we played good defense,” Krahulik said of the Tigers’ matchup. “We’ve played pretty good defense all year. I told the guys that if we hold them to 50, we’ll win this game.”
The result not only puts Romeoville two games behind Joliet Central in the Southwest Prairie race, but it also could hurt the Spartans in terms of sectional seeding, which will be conducted next week. Of course, as Krahulik said, he also is hoping it helps North.
The rest of the SPC schedule for this weekend has been postponed because of weather, with games not being made up until Feb. 22.
Plainfield North 48, Romeoville 27: Chelsea Cross scored 14 points, Stephanie Vincenteno nine and the North bench went wild when senior guard Greta Thompson hit a 16-foot shot to celebrate her senior night.
“She was my starting point guard and got hurt 10 or 11 games into the season,” Tigers coach Reggie Lemon said. “She hasn’t played since. I wanted to get her in tonight.”
Kelle Knopp also was honored between games as she is the first player at North (16-11, 9-4) – girl or boy – to reach 1,000 rebounds. In fact, she now has an even 1,100.
Lindsay Novak led Romeoville with eight points.