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Prep Sports

Girls basketball: Minooka captures SPC title, ties school record for victories

MINOOKA – It was an historic week both with the weather and also Minooka’s achievements.

On Thursday, for the first time in school history, the Indians received the top seed in a sectional: the Plainfield North Sectional that begins Feb. 11.

On Friday, before the Indians hosted Plainfield Central in a Southwest Prairie Conference game, Minooka honored Ray Liberatore, who coached the girls basketball team for 24 years before stepping down at the end of last season. He accumulated over 400 wins and won numerous conference and regional titles.

As the game started, Minooka was chasing two other goals – a win would tie the school record of 24 wins in a season and give them the outright SPC title, which it last won in 2015.

After Cierra Bachmann hit two free throws to put the Indians up, 4-0, with 6:08 in the first quarter the game was halted, as they presented Bachmann with a ball honoring her for scoring 1,000 points in her career.

“I didn’t even know I was close to scoring that many, and actually, everyone thought I needed one point tonight to get it, but when they checked, I actually scored the 1,000th point in our last game,” Bachmann, a senior said. “It’s an honor, but the only thing I care about when we get on the court is helping my teammates win the game, and I’ll do whatever it takes for us to win.

“But I can now talk smack to my sister, Brooklyn, because she achieved the honor early in her senior season and she told me I would never get it.”

Mission accomplished on the other two goals as Minooka improved to 24-3 overall and 8-0 in the SPC after defeating the Wildcats, 58-48.

The game featured two of the better players in the area and they showed why, as Bachmann scored 17 first-half points, finished with 29 and also grabbed eight rebounds.

Central sophomore Annaliese Griffin scored 28 points, including 16 in the second half, and hauled down 10 boards as both players scored when their team needed it most.

Minooka led the entire game, but the Wildcats (12-12, 4-4) never were out of it as they trailed, 18-12, at the end of the first quarter but their 8-0 run cut the lead to 22-20 with 4:14 left before the half. The half ended with Minooka holding a 31-26 advantage, and the Wildcats cut that to 40-36 entering the final quarter.

After Central’s Kachae Donald (10 points) hit two free throws to begin the quarter it was 40-38, but that would be as close as the Wildcats would get as Minooka went on an 11-0 run as Bachmann scored five, senior Savannah Johnson (10 points) hit two baskets and senior Caitlyn Hoover (11 points) also hit one to give Minooka a 51-38 lead and the conference title.

“This is the closest this team has ever been during my career here at Minooka, and we have bonded so well,” Hoover said of this season’s success. “We have done more team bonding activities, and it has really helped.”

“It feels great to accomplish so much on one night and to honor our former coach,” senior Nicole Lovato said. “It’s an honor to be a part of this team and the program.”

With so much accomplished in one night, what is next for the Indians in the week before the tournament starts?

“Tuesday night is Senior night against Yorkville, so we have to win and get the 25th victory,” Johnson said. “We are striving for at least a sectional title this year.”

“We now have to set small goals and go game to game,” Minooka coach Jeff Easthon said. “Tuesday is Senior night, and then we end the season next Friday against Romeoville, and our goal is to go undefeated in the conference.

“We only had one day of practice this week with the weather, and I played a lot of board games and video games with my kids because of the weather, but I was itching to have practice. Our coaching staff did a great job of sending the players film to study, and they were all texting me that they were watching. Central is a great team, well coach and has some very good players, especially Griffin, who is fantastic, and Katie Kearney (nine points) could hit the 3-pointer from anywhere.”

“We are finally getting healthy and getting most everyone back, and tonight was a good barometer of what we can do,” Central coach Armond Frazier said. “Anna [Griffin] has come a long way, She works hard on here game, stays and does extra work, and it shows.”

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