MINOOKA – It was a night for milestones in Minooka on Friday.
Not only did Minooka grab its 20th win of the season with a 50-45 Southwest Prairie Conference victory over Joliet Central, senior guard Cierra Bachmann’s final free throw in the waning seconds marked the 1,000th point of her career.
Bachmann’s 1,000th point put her at 23 on the evening and was the final nail in the coffin for Central’s comeback hopes.
“It was close all game and it wasn’t until early in the fourth that we build that lead, so we weren’t comfortable at all,” Minooka coach Jeff Easthon said. “We knew Joliet Central can close pretty much any gap real quick. They’re athletic, they can all shoot, and they get steals pretty much whenever they want. This one was pretty stressful for us.”
Minooka (20-2) came out red-hot for its Friday night home showcase and piled up 18 points in the first quarter to establish an early, eight-point lead. The key in that quarter proved to be the theme throughout the win – consistency from the free-throw line.
The Indians did an excellent job of getting to the line and executing once they got there from buzzer to buzzer. They combined to go 5 for 5 at the stripe in the first quarter and finished the game at 18 for 23.
Bachmann, in particular, was spectacularly efficient at the line. She made 13 free throws in 14 tries and was tremendously clutch when it mattered most, going 7 for 8 in the fourth quarter.
Despite Minooka’s early success, Central (11-6) was able to lock down and hold the hosts to only four points in the second quarter and pulled to within one point at halftime, trailing, 22-21. The Steelmen surrendered only a pair of buckets to Bachmann in that quarter and shut out the rest of Minooka’s roster entirely.
But their containment wouldn’t last. Minooka gathered itself and fought off the charging Steelmen squad through the third quarter, extending its lead to three points heading into the fourth quarter and then finally reestablished some breathing room after leading by as much as 10 points near the midpoint of the final frame.
With the exception of its slightly slow start, the Steelmen played well from wire to wire, but a strong outing wasn’t enough to best Minooka on its home floor.
Central had three scorers reach double digits as Annette Hymon led the way with 13 points, while Allasha Alexander and Shawnton Brown added 11 points apiece.
But no one from Central stepped up quite like the most recent member of Minooka’s 1,000-point club, and Easthon said it’s hard for anyone to match up. He said Bachmann just has that special something on the court.
“It’s her confidence, her ball-handling ability, Cierra knows she can do anything she wants,” Easthon said. “There are a lot of players that just don’t have that positive self-assurance. I don’t know what it is, she just has it.
“She has the work ethic, the ball skills, the athleticism, and she knows that down the stretch, it’s her, and she wants the ball in her hands. She just has that intangible quality that not many kids have.”