Plainfield East kept it close for three quarters, but eventually the Neuqua Valley experience took over Monday night in a 68-49 win in a Plainfield North Regional quarterfinal.
The Bengals trailed just 25-22 at the half and it was 35-33 midway through the third quarter. The Wildcats opened the lead to nine points at 42-33 but East made it 42-37 after three.
The first five-plus minutes of the fourth quarter though was owned by the Wildcats. They built a 59-41 lead with just 2:30 left in the game.
“Every time we made a run they were able to capitalize with their own run,” East coach Branden Adkins said. “We got some open looks. It happened a lot this year where we were close and on the cusp and we needed to make a basket to get the momentum and just didn’t get it. We had seven overtime games and weren’t able to finish on top in any of them. I like their spirit through the ups and downs. They are really young and if they can keep the edge and work on their individual game, they will be nice players.”
The Bengals had a quick 8-0 spurt to get within 10 points with 1:29 left, but after another turnover from Neuqua, a three-pointer was well off the mark and Neuqua would go on to win.
“It was their lack of experience in varsity competition,” Adkins said of the quick shots throughout the game in key situations. “You can get away with that in situations that aren’t that critical. They are learning that possession is important on both ends.”
It was the story of the year for East, which won four games on the season with a very young team.
The three leading scorers in the game for the Bengals (Yamani Shareef with 14, BJ Robinson with 13 and Collin Reed with 9) were all sophomores.
“There were some guys thrown into the mix who we didn’t expect,” Adkins said. “I give the sophomores a lot of credit for stepping up and competing. Hopefully these experiences will help them in the long run.”
Senior Senior Blaise Meredith led the Wildcats with 26 points.
“Coach Sutton does a great job of preparing his players,” Adkins said. “When you are young and small and have constant screening action. After a while your body breaks down. They are a good program.”