ROMEOVILLE – The Southwest Prairie matchup between Plainfield South and the host Spartans looked over early after Romeoville jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game Friday night.
But this game turned out to be a good one with Romeoville holding off the Cougars to grab a 76-70 victory.
The Spartans (7-1, 2-0) bounced back quickly after suffering their first loss of the season Wednesday at Bolingbrook, and the loss by the Cougars was like déjà vu of so many early-season games – being close, but not coming away with the win.
“The worst thing might have getting out to that quick lead,” Spartans coach Marc Howard said. “Because we started thinking only about offense, we didn’t play any defense and we let one of their players [Diamond Presniakovas] score about 20 points in the first half.”
With the Spartans leading, 19-11, entering the second quarter, Presniakovas took matters into his own hands as he scored 17 points in the quarter and had 19 at the break as Levert Shields (16 points) scored the other four points as the Cougars trailed, 37-32, at the break.
Romeoville led, 27-16, with 4:46 left in the second quarter when Presniakovas scored eight consecutive points to cut the lead to 27-24 with 2:32 left. The teams traded points with the Spartans Keedan Foster hitting two 3s and Zach Gibson (18 points, nine rebounds) hitting on
two shots. Levert scored two baskets, and Presniakovas scored four more points to go to the half.
Presnaikovas and Shields combined for 30 of the Cougars 32 first-half points as Brennan Phillips had the only other basket.
The Spartans got their act together, especially on the defensive end, as they outscored the Cougars (2-6, 0-2) 16-7 over the first five minutes of the third quarter, leading, 53-39. Noah Ferrell scored five of his 13 points in that early third-quarter run by Romeoville and was an inside presence all game.
“We played much better defense to start the second half and that made a big difference,” Howard said.
Also helping was the shooting of junior Destin Whitaker, as he scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter.
“Things got away from us a little after we got that 12-0 lead,” Whitaker said. “We had to clean up the turnovers and get back to playing together as a team. It was the little things against Bolingbrook that cost us, and tonight we just wanted to keep a good mindset in the second half, and I believe we did that.
“We just want to win this year and get to the next level. We are more together as a team, and we are sticking together, and we are much more patient when we play well.”
Presniakovas scored the final
six points of the third quarter for the Cougars as they entered the fourth trailing, 61-48. He then scored the first four points of the fourth quarter and ended the game with 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
After a basket by Ikenna Okeke (seven points) and Mike Salter
(10 points) the Spartans led, 65-52, with 5:19 left, but the Cougars made one last run on back-to-back 3s by Anthony Marmolejo (13 points) and Shields cut the lead to 69-62 with 2:50 left.
Gibson made a three-point play with 54 seconds left to seal it for the Spartans as they led, 76-66, as Shields and Timothy Williams hit baskets for the Cougars to make the final margin six.
South has been in every game this season and their record easily could be reversed.
“Tonight we might have been a little shell-shocked at the beginning,” South coach Tim Boe said. “We need to find a way to jump-start everyone right away. These kids battled hard again tonight, and we have to grow from this.
“We are very young and I know it’s hard, but we are right there, but we just have to figure out how to get over that hump. We seem to play really well when our backs are against the wall. I think our worst games have been the ones we have won.”
“We are tired of hearing that we played well,” assistant coach Kelly Ash said. “We want to play well and get victories.”