JOLIET – Two teams were in search of their first Southwest Prairie Conference victory Friday when Joliet West traveled to Plainfield South, and both teams brought the offense.
West, which trailed, 69-62, at one point, scored 23 points in the last 5:33 of the game to claim an 85-80 win.
The teams combined for 62 free throws with the Tigers (3-11, 1-2) hitting on 28 of 35 and South going 18 of 27. The Cougars had a big advantage from the 3-point line as they connected on 12 of the shots as West hit only three. But the Cougars didn’t hit one after a buzzer-beater by Levert Shields to end the third quarter to tie the game at 58.
But the big difference was the Tigers’ Jamere Hill as the junior scored 27 second-half points, including 14 in the final quarter and ended the night with 38 points.
“This was a big win for us tonight,” Hill said. “We have been learning from our losses and staying positive and that really helped tonight. [South was] guarding me pretty close, and I knew I could drive on them and try to get to the basket. Coach told me that I had to try and take over when I had the opportunity.”
After a basket by Shields (18 points) to give the Cougars (5-10, 0-3) a 73-72 lead with 3:14 left, Hill scored the Tigers’ next seven points in about a minute to grab a 79-75 lead, and South couldn’t recover.
Diamond Presniakovas scored 31 for the Cougars as he hit five 3-pointers but was limited to only one field goal in the fourth quarter.
“We put Kevon Dorris, our best defender, on Presniakovas in the fourth quarter and he really did the job,” West coach Nick DiForti said. “Kevon is a three-sport athlete, a senior and a grinder. We brought him up as a freshman because of his defense, and he can just about guard anyone we put him on.”
Dorris also scored eight points and hit one of the 3s for the Tigers. Trent Howland scored 12 points, with Jaiden Lee getting 11 points, and Justin Corcoran chipping in seven.
“This is a big win for us,” DiForti said. “It’s been awhile, and when you look at our record, you don’t see much, but we have had spirited practices, and if anyone would watch us practice, you wouldn’t think our record is what it is. Tonight it was Jamere and our
free-throw shooting. We practice free throws like everyone else, but we try and practice pressure free throws, and tonight, you could see confidence and poise when they stepped to the line.
“We needed Jamere to step up tonight, and he did. He was called up to the varsity about this time last year, and it takes about a year, especially at the point guard position, to really get a feel for everything. We really want to control the tempo, and I thought we did a good job of that tonight. This was a very good team win.”
West jumped out to an 8-0 lead but South came back and only trailed, 18-16, after the first quarter. The teams were tied at 33 at the half and 58 after three quarters. The Cougars had opportunities down the stretch at the rim but couldn’t get the ball to fall.
South saw the return of sophomore Cooper Schmid, who finished the night with 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. Schmid broke his wrist in the first game, which was in the Joliet West Thanksgiving Tournament, and Anthony Marmolejo also scored 11 points.
“No matter what level you play at, you have to make layups and free throws to win,” South coach Tim Boe said. “West did a great job of taking Diamond out of the game the final four minutes or so. Give West credit. Their coaches do a great job, and Hill played a great game for them tonight. It seemed liked their team really rallied around him.
“Hill got three fouls early in the game, and we didn’t go after him. They kept switching him on defense, but we didn’t go after him, and ultimately, that was a big difference. We got down early again, and maybe some of that was not playing for two weeks, but we came back but just didn’t finish.”