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Plano climbs into thick of I-8 title hunt

02/12/2013, 7:03pm CST
By Rick Armstrong rarmstrong@stmedianetwork.com

Wins over Interstate Eight Conference rivals Seneca and Peotone made last week special for coach Brett Moore and his Plano basketball team. The Reapers now control their own destiny in the conference chase.

Plano's Elijah Wallace lays it up against Mendota on Friday in Somonauk. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

It was a very good week.

Wins over Interstate Eight Conference rivals Seneca and Peotone — combined with receiving the No. 1 seed at the Class 3A Lincoln-Way West Regional — made last week special for coach Brett Moore and his Plano basketball team.

“We control our own destiny, but we have three tough teams (remaining),” Moore said after his team climbed into the thick of the conference chase.

After Tuesday night’s nonconference test with Hinckley-Big Rock, Plano plays host to Wilmington on Friday then faces road dates next week at Coal City and Herscher to close out league play.

Win them all and the Reapers would lock up at least a share of the title.

The 39-35 win over Seneca avenged a nine-point loss to the Irish at the Plano Christmas Classic and moved the 7-1 Reapers into a tie for first place (in the loss column) with Seneca (9-1), which has just one league game remaining.

“We beat Wilmington by only two the first time we played them,” Moore said. “Coal City has been beating everybody lately and we lost to Herscher on a last-second basket in the conference tournament.”

Forward Cody Dryden is the lone senior among the team’s top seven when it comes to minutes played and is second on the team in scoring (10.5 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.9).

Junior guard Elijah Wallace leads the club in scoring with a 13.8 average while junior Jon McDermott and sophomore Udo Agomo average 6.5 and 5.9 rebounds, respectively.

The young Reapers have had up-and-down shooting nights from the floor and often struggle from the free-throw line, where they shoot about 51 percent as a team.

“We made 20 of 31 free throws last Friday against Peotone but 6 of 15 against Seneca,” Moore said. “But we just played really good defense that night against Seneca.

“It helps when you have a 6-6 guy (Agomo) in the middle averaging about two blocks a game and altering about seven or eight more. He’s made us a lot better on defense.”

Settling into roles offensively has also helped the Reapers climb to 17-8.

“I’m a real big believer in the three-point shot, I love it,” Moore said. “A couple years ago we averaged about 25 a game. This team, though, has settled in and should probably only shoot about 10 per game.”

Plano, which upset top seed Aurora Christian last year in the 2A playoffs and went on to win a regional as a fourth seed, is followed at Lincoln-Way West by No. 2 seed Providence Catholic, No. 3 Joliet Catholic, No. 4 Sandwich and the hosts.

“We don’t have much interaction with those schools and I still don’t know how we ended up there instead of IMSA, where we’d probably be a 4 or 5 seed,” Moore said.

“I was really shocked to be seeded first. I know we had the most wins, but I don’t know for sure that we’re deserving.”

Providence, JCA and Lincoln-Way West probably play tougher schedules, he noted.

“We’ve only played five games against 3A schools and one vs. a 4A school while they play a lot of 3A and 4A schools,” he said. “Lincoln-Way West is 2-20 but they’re at worst, a middle-of-the-pack team in the Interstate Eight. We’ll make sure our kids know that going in.”

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