PLAINFIELD – After seeing his Plainfield Central boys basketball team drop its past three contests, coach Gregg Bayer was hopeful that Friday’s Southwest Prairie Conference home game against District 202 rival Plainfield North might reverse their recent outcomes.
And thanks to a strong start, the Wildcats led nearly throughout and were able maintain a double-digit lead during the final quarter as they captured a 58-44 victory over the Tigers.
Central (4-5, 1-1) had four individuals reach double digits in scoring, with Maurice McCullum leading the way with a game-high 17 points. Brandon Shoemaker added 14 points, Mason Magemeneas chipped in with 13 points, and Javari Johnson contributed 10 points. That group accounted for all but four of their team’s points.
The Wildcats were able to move down the court with efficiency, as evidenced by their 10 turnovers. Their transition game resulted in 13 two-point baskets, with nearly all of them coming on layups, and they also made six of their nine 3-pointers in the first half to frustrate the Tigers (4-5, 1-1), who hoped to get off to a 2-0 start in conference play.
“We had 22 made field goals and had 14 assists,” Bayer said. “We always aim for 50 percent, and we were better than that, which talks about sharing the ball. We knew defensively that they’re a tough team that can hold people to low-scoring games since they switch a lot and help heavy. We said to the guys that they had to attack and re-attack and do simple things, since simplicity wins.
“I saw the energy tonight and I’ve seen it in spurts this year, but we hit shots and we have to have that same defensive energy on any night, especially when we don’t shoot the ball well. I can really say that all that everybody in that locker room wanted was a win. And when you have everybody on the same page and they all want one thing and are willing to give something for it, that selfless attitude is what’s going to make you successful.”
North’s Carter Thurman (11 points) hit an early 3-pointer to give the visitors their only lead. With McCullum supplying six points and Magemeneas and Shoemaker chipping in five points apiece, the Wildcats grabbed a 16-10 lead after the opening quarter.
“This was a complete team effort since everybody contributed,” McCullum said. “We had four guys in double figures, and that speaks for itself right there. And when you look at the rebounding numbers, everybody got on the board, and that was our biggest focus, and that helped us to win this game. I feel like we try to build on something in every single game. The bottom line for us is that this is a family.”
The Tigers closed to within 21-18 following a dunk by Thurman, but Central answered with an 8-0 run, during which McCullum knocked down a 3, and Magemeneas followed with a steal and a layup and another 3-pointer to make it 29-18 with 3:02 left in the half. The Wildcats took a 31-23 advantage into the intermission.
“We played with a lot of teamwork, we hustled and all of us got to the boards,” Shoemaker said. “We all just played together, and that’s how it’s got to be. It all happens at practice since we practice hard every day. We work on defense every day, and we’ll only get better at it.”
North’s Kyle Bragg (11 points) hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the third quarter to make it 33-29 and the Tigers only trailed, 40-34, later in that quarter, but a 7-0 burst featuring a layup and 3 from McCullum and a layup from Johnson boosted the host’s lead to 47-34 with eight minutes left and North couldn’t get closer than 11 points back after that.
“We didn’t have hands up on them or do a very good job of switching in the beginning, so they gained confidence and played well,” Tigers coach Bob Krahulik said. “We struggled running our offense, and that’s a credit to them. Unfortunately, we’re not playing well right now, but hopefully, we get that right before next week and before the Pontiac Tournament.”