There were indications that the Plainfield Central boys basketball team’s fast start to the season was something that very well could happen.
The Wildcats were 6-0 and living up to expectations. And while a veteran core of experienced players has an awful lot to do with it, intangibles such as team chemistry are fostering a competitive environment, helping the roster achieve success from top to bottom.
“That’s what you want. It creates some depth, and it creates some competitiveness in practice, too,” Plainfield Central coach Gregg Bayer said. “If somebody comes out there and shows that they can compete, that’s what you want. You want competitive practices; every successful team that I’ve ever been a part of has practices every day that have been a dogfight.”
Joseph Edozie, who led Plainfield Central with 19 points in Friday’s win over Plainfield South, echoed his coache’s sentiment.
“In our practices you can see it every day,” Edozie said. “Even if one of us just got scored on, we take it a little personal, but we’re still happy that all five hands touched the ball and we’re all scoring.”
Plainfield Central’s schedule before a return trip to the East Aurora Holiday Tournament, where it finished second last year, has some interesting wrinkles, most notably a home showdown with Joliet West on Dec. 20. The two teams look like early favorites to win a conference title this season.
Reversal of fortune
With Friday night’s victory over Plainfield East, Joliet West already has surpassed its season win total of a year ago.
It’s a total turnaround for first-year coach Jeremy Kreiger and the Tigers, who already won a title at their own Thanksgiving Tournament and seem to be making a case for a much better situation for themselves at their upcoming Christmas Tournament in Pontiac.
Seeds were released Sunday for the loaded tournament, and while the Tigers did not receive a seed (the tournament only officially assigns four seeds), it appears they were fairly well thought of in the process.
Joliet West will play the final game on the opening day of play at the tournament against a solid Bloomington team. A win there likely would pit it against third-seeded Simeon in the second round.
In any case, the Tigers earned themselves a considerably better draw than the one they received last season, when they were beaten soundly by a strong Chicago Public League program in Curie.
Lockport and Plainfield North are the other local teams in the field. Plainfield North will play Oak Park-River Forest, while Lockport received another brutal opening-round matchup against top-seeded Bloom. The Porters pushed Simeon to the brink in the first round last year.
The other seeded teams were Curie (No. 2) and Peoria Manual (No. 4).
Raiders still a factor
Most expected a step back from Bolingbrook after graduating an extremely talented senior class that included Joseph Yesufu, now at Drake, and Tyler Cochran, now at Northern Illinois.
But the Raiders apparently aren’t ready to fade away. Led by Darius Burford, who signed with Elon this summer, Bolingbrook is breaking in a new cast of talented players hoping to make their own mark.
Kai Evans scored 31 points in Friday’s win over Lincoln-Way West, while big man Donoven Younger is making an early impression.
The Raiders won’t be heading to Florida during the Christmas season after last year’s successful showing at the Kingdom of the Sun Tournament in Florida, one of the elite high school tournaments in the nation. Instead, they’ll joined the loaded 32-team field at the Jack Tosh Tournament for the holiday season.
That doesn’t mean they’ve eliminated out-of-state excursions, however. The Raiders will make their yearly trip to Iowa to play in the Jerry Slyhuis Memorial Event in Cedar Falls this weekend.
The path to the state finals likely will be revealed in the next week.
Postseason assignments usually are revealed about Dec. 15 and will break down where area teams are placed throughout the sectional complexes around the state for each of the four classifications.
It also will be the last year where the state championship weekends are held on separate weekends for small schools (Class 1A and 2A) and large schools (Class 3A and 4A).
The state finals in 2021 will have all four classes playing together over a three-day period (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) at a to-be-determined site.
This year’s finals will be held at Carver Arena in Peoria, while future tournaments still are under bid consideration by the IHSA. Submissions close on Jan. 10, with the winning bid likely to be announced before the finals.