PLAINFIELD – The Plainfield East basketball team was about as close to perfect as it could be for the first quarter of Friday night’s game with Plainfield South.
And as impressive as that was to watch, a little more sustainability of that spectacular first quarter certainly would have been welcome as the Bengals had to fend off a never-say-die effort from the Cougars in a 72-59 win for East.
That final score was a bit deceiving. While Plainfield East built a lead of 19 in the first half, it was whittled all the way down to two points early in the fourth quarter.
“I was pleased with the way we started, we hadn’t played since last week, and we were coming off two losses; you always wonder how you are going to respond,” Plainfield East coach Mike Fowler said. “We just didn’t do it for four quarters and that’s something we need to do. It’s late, we’re in February, but they made some adjustments and they always prepare well for us. Fortunately, we got off to a pretty decent lead and we held on.”
That decent lead was assembled largely in the first quarter. The Bengals hit their first six shots from the floor and took a 15-5 lead in the process. Extra possessions were abundant, as well, for the Bengals (14-9) who routinely got into Plainfield South’s passing lanes, leading to some breakouts, easy buckets and a 7-0 run at the end of the first quarter, capped by a three-point play from Christian Shumate (23 points) gave the Bengals a 27-8 lead.
“I think we just really came out ready to play, we hadn’t played a game in like a week,” Shumate said. “We came out hungry and came out and did what we had to do in the first quarter and the first half.”
Plainfield South did manage to trim the lead down to 10 points midway through the second quarter, only to have Plainfield East rattle off seven consecutive points to take full control of the game once again. Plainfield South managed to score the final points of the first half to leave the Bengals with a 15-point lead (42-27).
It looked like more of the same in the second half as Plainfield East stretched out the lead to almost 20 early in the third quarter. But midway through the frame, Plainfield South started to find its touch from long range. The Cougars got a pair of 3s from Cooper Schmid and another from Levert Shields during an 11-0 Plainfield South run that suddenly made a game that looked like a potential runaway interesting.
Plainfield East righted its ship to hold a 51-43 lead at the end of three quarters, but the Cougars kept charging, eventually pulling within 52-50 on yet another 3-pointer from Schmid.
But as he did all night, Shumate stepped to the forefront, scoring on two pivotal possessions before providing a thunderous dunk with just over two minutes to play in the game that gave Plainfield East the breathing room it needed to feel comfortable to finish off the win.
“Sometimes you have to do something like that, you gotta put them away. Take all of their energy away,” Shumate said. “You gotta prove a point. I think I’m a big energy guy for the team, sometimes, maybe when our energy is low, I can help bring a big momentum swing for our team.”
After the Shumate dunk, Plainfield East outscored Plainfield South 11-4 down the stretch, doing enough from the foul line to seal the deal.
The flashes of sensational play were certainly nice to see from Plainfield East, but Fowler knows his team will have to bring more of that for larger stretches if they hope to make an impact.
“We just have to keep challenging them,” Fowler said. “It’s about sitting down and grinding defensive efforts out.”
Diamond Presniakovas led Plainfield South (9-17) with 19 points.