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Plainfield East’s Myles Ward credited the halftime talk from coach Branden Adkins.
Adkins, in turn, said his bench, with Ward a prominent member, provided the spark.
Ward scored on a steal and layup 10 seconds into the fourth quarter Tuesday and followed that with a 15-foot jumper and a driving layup. With Minooka scoring 10 points the entire second half, that helped East prevail 48-39.
The visiting Bengals (10-14, 7-4) moved a stride ahead of the Indians (15-11, 6-5) in the four-team scramble for second place in the Southwest Prairie Conference, with Plainfield North and Oswego East also in the mix.
“We wanted to play with energy, but I don’t think we really had it until coach’s halftime speech,” Ward said. “It was nice for me to get three quick ones (baskets) in the fourth quarter. My shot hadn’t been falling lately.”
“I love playing with that dude (Ward),” said East’s Aaron Jordan, who scored 23 points and did not miss in a 13-point second half. “He gives us energy. And for once we took pride in our defense. It has not been where we want it.”
Minooka led 29-24 at the break but was stifled thereafter. The Indians shot 3-of-14 in the second half, including 1-of-9 from three-point range, and were 2-of-16 on threes overall.
“That’s it right there, 2-of-16 on threes,” Minooka coach Scott Tanaka said. “Plainfield East did a great job defensively, but our offense got us open shots and we have guys who can shoot it.”
“I’m happy for our guys because we’ve really struggled defensively,” Adkins said. “The last month we’ve had games when we hung in against tough opponents but gave up 60-some odd points. When you hold a team that can shoot to 39 points and three baskets and a couple free throws in the second half, you’ve done something.”
Adkins said the Bengals in the second half “tried to take away their point guard (Darrin Myers) more. Darrin has good quickness and orchestrates their offense. Our pressure defense forced some quick shots.”
The other element in the equation was the Bengals’ ball control.
“We did a nice job in the fourth quarter passing the ball and having long possessions,” Adkins said.
Myers led Minooka with 13 points, including nine of their 10 in the second half. Jake Hogen had all of his 10 in the first half.