NEW LENOX – With the IHSA announcing seeds for the upcoming Class 4A boys basketball sectionals Thursday, a nonconference game between Romeoville and Lincoln-Way Central on Tuesday took on a little more importance.
Although the Spartans have an opportunity to draw a good seed for the East Aurora Sectional, they knew that the host Knights certainly wouldn’t make things easy for them.
Romeoville helped its cause by jumping out to a 30-16 halftime lead, but Central pulled to within eight points on a pair of occasions before the visitors settled for a 64-54 victory.
Leading the way for the Spartans was Destin Whitaker, who followed up on a 37-point effort in a win Friday at Minooka by collecting 30 points, with five 3-pointers.
The Spartans also received contributions from Ikenna Okeke (nine points), Mike Salter (eight points), Noah Ferrell (six points) and Keedan Foster (six points).
“They’re a good shooting team,” Romeoville coach Marc Howard said. “We had a great first half and got off to a good start, and multiple guys had an impact on the game. But in the third, we kind of lost composure a little bit and had a breakdown there, but we recovered and closed out the game.
“I feel like we should get a good seed and everyone is posturing for their position, but we feel good about our record, but at this time, it’s 0-0 since records don’t matter. We’ve had a couple of upsets because other teams play together and play good ball. So you have to come to the regional prepared to play.”
Despite posting two of his best scoring efforts of the season in the past two contests, Whitaker is far more concerned about how the Spartans will put things together so that they’re ready to when the state playoffs get underway.
“I have to give it to my teammates because they’re the ones that gave me the ball and find me when I’m open,” Whitaker said. “It’s been a lot of hard work in the gym putting up shots, and it’s starting to show now. This was a big game for the seedings, so we needed to make sure that we would win this game. We’d like to have an easier path, but we know that it’s not always going to be easy in the regionals and sectionals.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we need to keep our composure and play to our ability, and if we do that, I feel like we can beat almost anybody.”
Despite trailing, 52-35, early in the final quarter, the Knights (13-14) continued to battle and generally were within 10 points for the remainder of the game.
Leading Central in scoring was Ryan Kraft, who tossed in 17 points, with five 3-pointers. Nick Tingley chipped in with 15 points, Sean Curran added 11 points with three 3-pointers, and Matt Maloney contributed seven points.
“They’re hard to deal with,” Knights coach Bob Curran said. “They’re quick and [Mike] Salter does a great job at guard, and he runs the show real well. Obviously, [Whitaker] hurt us shooting, and he gets up so high on his jumpshot and it’s a case of whether he’ll make it or miss it, and he made them tonight, and that really was the difference.
“But I’m proud of the way that our kids battled. Really what hurt us was the end of the third quarter, when it was an eight-point game and we had two turnovers and they scored five points. If we would have the ball for the last shot and made a 3, that would have been an eight-point swing. We’ll go into the playoffs and battle, and our sophomores bring a lot of confidence, and it will be a good experience.”