By Drake Skleba
For the Bugle 

'Shoe'-less Wildcats drop pair of games after WJOL title


Last updated 12/18/2019 at 2:48pm

On Monday night, the Plainfield Central Wildcats (7-2), traveled to historic Biester Gymnasium, on the campus of Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Wildcats were without 2019 WJOL Thanksgiving Tournament Most Valuable Player, senior Brandon Shoemaker.

“We once again were missing our key player,” Plainfield Central coach Gregg Bayer said. “I thought we played well tonight against a very good team. We are looking for Brandon to provide us all with a very Merry Christmas present — his return to the lineup.”

After trailing 40-28 late in the third quarter the Wildcats went to their vaunted half-court trap defense.

Glenbard West (8-1), who’s starting front line is 6-9, 6-4 and 6-3, began turning the ball over.

Led by the long-range sharpshooting of senior Javari Johnson the ‘Cats clawed back into the game.

With 5:15 left, Wildcat senior Mekhi Lunford’s (nine points, three rebounds), old-fashioned three-point play gave Central the 45-44 lead.

Scoring the next nine Glenbard West points of the game, Hiltopper senior guard Diallo Phillips (23 points), took over the game as West won 62-53.

“Phillips is a great player and for the most part we denied him the ball,” Bayer said. “He hurt us in the second quarter and in the fourth quarter. Glenbard West is a very big and very good team. They are well coached and look for them to make a deep run in March.”

For the Wildcat forwards, 6-foot-2, Malik Lunford, 6-3, Mekhi Lunford and 6-4 Wildcat center, Joseph Edozie (six points, six rebounds), keeping the much-taller Hilltoppers off the boards, was a problem all night.

Outrebounded 20-12 in the first half and 32-19 for the game, Glenbard West’s 6-9 sophomore center Brandon Huff did the most damage. Huff scored 16 points and hauled down a dozen rebounds.

Jakari Johnson tied Phillips for game-scoring honors with 23 points. Jakari hit four from beyond the arc.

The 6-foot Takari Johnson battled the Hilltopper bigs, hauling down seven rebounds and scored 12 points.

“Phillips is a great player for Glenbard West,” Jakari Johnson said. “Huff really hurt us, as well. My teammates were able to get me good looks at the basket, tonight. I have been shooting very well from the outside, this season.

“We are hoping to get Brandon (Shoemaker) back very soon and when he returns, we will be very difficult to beat.”

A week earlier, the Spartans of Romeoville invaded Plainfield to face the then-undefeated Wildcats in a Southwest Prairie East early-season showdown.

After leading the Wildcats to the 2019 WJOL Thanksgiving Tournament Championship and an SPC East victory over Plainfield East, Shoemaker sat out his second consecutive game, due to illness.

At the half, the visiting Spartans held a 28-22 lead.

Led by Fresno State-bound senior, Destin Whitaker’s 13 third-quarter points, Romeoville (4-3, 2-1) opened up a 48-30 lead after three quarters.

With six minutes remaining, the Spartans led 57-36.

Without their fallen leader, Shoemaker, the valiant Wildcats, rallied behind the Johnson Brothers, Javari (20 points) and Tavari (nine points). Junior Kameron Flowers (12 points) and Lunford (9 points), had huge fourth quarters, as Plainfield Central (6-1, 2-1) rallied but fell 61-53.

Led by senior Keedan’s Foster’s (15 points, three rebounds, three steals), 11 first-half points, the Spartans held the six point halftime lead, over the Wildcats.

“I didn’t do too much for us last season,” Foster said. “I working hard and I am really stepping up this year for us. We knew they won the WJOL Tournament and we really wanted to give them their first loss of the year.”

Returning from injury for the Spartans, 6-foot-5, 215 pound Trayton Trice (seven points, nine rebounds, three blocks), was an immediate contributor in the first half for Romeoville. Trice’s seven points and three blocks in the first-half, helped lead the Spartans to their first-half lead.

“It was hard being out of the lineup, during our three-game losing streak,” Trice said. “It felt great to be out there tonight. I am really happy that I was able to contribute. We are looking forward to returning home Friday, for Plainfield East and then Sunday at the Derrick Rose Shootout at Mount Carmel, against Chicago Hyde Park.”

Whitaker, saddled with two fouls in the first half, had but three points.

With six minutes to go in the third quarter and the Spartans up 29-24, Whitaker took over the game.

“At halftime, coach Howard told me to relax and not let the officials bother me,” Whitaker said. “Coach also told me to be Destin and I followed his advice.”

A 7-0 personal Whitaker run, gave the Spartans a 36-24 lead with 4:45 in the third.

Spartan junior Tyler Johnson (five points, three rebounds, two blocks), also buried a long-range three. Whitaker finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals.

After being held scoreless in the first half, Plainfield Central-transfer, Tyrell Ross-Childs (seven points, six rebounds, assist, had five, third-quarter points, for the Spartans.

“This was a great win for us,” Whitaker added. “After Plainfield Central had won the WJOL Tournament we really wanted to beat them. Keedan (Foster) and Trayton (Trice) were outstanding for us, especially in the first half.”

“We are finally healthy and this was a big victory for us over a very good and well-coached Plainfield Central team. Coach Bayer does a great job,” Romeoville head coach Marc Howard said. “Having Trayton (Trice) back in the lineup, really gave us an inside presence, that we were missing. Destin, showed everyone, in the second-half, why he is heading to Fresno State.”


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