MINOOKA – Some people will argue that free-throw shooting in basketball has become a lost art. Well, if those people were in the Minooka gym Friday night as it hosted Plainfield South in the Southwest Prairie Conference opener, you couldn’t argue with them.
It took two overtimes, and yes, some clutch free-throw shooting, as Minooka came away with a 64-60 victory in the home debut of first-year coach Kevin Cain.
In an interesting twist, this was the second time Cain had faced South coach Tim Boe.
In Cain’s first game as a player on the Minooka freshman team, he hit nine 3s and scored 27 points against the freshmen at South, who were coached by Boe.
In a back-and-forth game through three quarters, South grabbed its largest lead on a 3-pointer by Anthony Marmolejo to go up, 49-44, with only 2:20 left in the game.
But with 45 seconds remaining, the Indians’ Trent Hudak (22 points) hit a 3 to get to within one, at 49-48, and up to that point Minooka was only 6 of 21 from the free-throw line.
“We came together as a team when we needed to tonight,” Hudak said. “This was our first home game, the fans were great, and we were all excited. Coach [Cain] has preached to us that never-give-up attitude, and it was nice to get his first win on our home floor.”
South had opportunities, but it missed the front ends of one-and-the bonus free throws on consecutive fouls by the Indians. Then, after two made free throws by Hudak, South missed two more with 18 seconds left and trailed by one. Hudak again converted two free throws, and the Indians were up, 52-49, with 11 seconds left.
But the drama was just starting as Cougars junior Peyton Schmid nailed a long 3-pointer to send it to overtime, tied at 52.
South then grabbed a 55-52 lead as it actually hit on 3 of 4 free throws, but missed on two with the opportunity to go up by five.
Then, Carlos Hernandez hit a basket for the Indians and Hudak made a three-point play to go up, 57-55.
The Cougars’ Diamond Presniakovas (17 points) made a basket and was fouled but missed the free throw and the game was tied at 57 with 11 seconds left. Minooka’s Adrian Gonzalez (11 points, 14 rebounds) was fouled on a shot at the rim with 1.3 seconds remaining but missed both free throws, and the game went to the second overtime.
South then had opportunities from the line, but was only 3 of 10 in the second overtime from the charity stripe, and Hernandez scored three points, and Jaedon Johnson made two free throws to secure the win for Minooka.
“We practice free throws all the time, seriously, we do,” Hernandez said. “When you miss, you just have to forget it and move on to the next shot, and tonight we did that, because we were bad early, but hit them when it mattered.”
Minooka finished the game by going 10 of 13 from the line in the final 29 seconds of regulation and the two overtimes, where as South was only 6 of 21 in that same span and finished the game 12 of 28.
“It was like no one wanted to win this game,” Cain said. “The fight in these kids was tremendous tonight, and I’ll coach that kind of play forever here at Minooka. They made a stop when they had to, they made the shots when it mattered, and they never gave up.
“I’m excited and I’m so happy that I get to coach here at Minooka, not only with this team, but with the great fans we have and the support of everyone.”
Levert Shields led the Cougars with 21 points and also grabbed six rebounds but fouled out with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter. He scored 17 points from the end of the first quarter until the 6:09 mark of the third quarter, as he was the only Cougar to hit a field goal in that span.
“Minooka played hard, and they made the free throws when it mattered,” Boe said. “But I’m proud of our team tonight because there was intensity. They got after it on defense and caused over 20 turnovers, was communicating well on the floor with each other and played well, except for the free throws.”