Plainfield South girls basketball program on the right track
Last updated 3/5/2020 at 11:44am
Heading into the IHSA Class 4A Metea Valley Regional final against Bolingbrook, Plainfield South already had achieved more in one season than any other team in program history.
The Cougars tied a school record with 16 wins on the season, equaling the same number of wins as last season.
With a 46-38 win over District 202 rival Plainfield Central in the regional semifinal round, South advanced to the program's first-ever regional championship game.
That said, coach Lincoln DePaula knew the challenge of facing the Raiders was a tough one.
Bolingbrook has historically been one of the state's premier programs for the last decade and this year's team features three Division-I seniors in the starting lineup.
"We told the girls at the beginning of the game, it didn't matter what the final score was going to be, but that we needed to give them our best," DePaula said. "There was going to be a time where things weren't going our way and what were we going to do? Were we going to quit or keep playing hard?"
Those times came as Bolingbrook opened up a 30-point lead in the fourth quarter and initiated the running clock rule, en route to a 73-44 win.
"To our credit, for the most part we played hard," DePaula said. "I feel that we got better as a program. We have never been in this situation. You have to pay your dues and just the experience of winning a regional semifinal was huge for us. In the first three quarters against Plainfield Central, I thought, 'Here we go again.' But we got better then and we got better in this game."
The Cougars graduate only two seniors from this season's team and DePaula has the program in the best position it has been in since its inception in 2002.
Before DePaula took the reins in 2016, Plainfield South had only one double-digit winning season.
The Cougars have now accomplished that task each of the last three seasons.
It took DePaula only three seasons to become the program's all-time winningest coach. His 47 wins in four seasons account for nearly 40 percent of the programs 118 total program wins over 18 years.
DePaula has averaged 11.8 wins per season over his four seasons at the helm, while the program before him posted an average of 5.1.
The nest step for the program is to continue to increase the competition level during the regular season, so a playoff opponent like Bolingbrook will not seem as daunting.
"In the past few years we built a schedule to get some wins so we feel good about ourselves, but this year we scheduled teams like Lincoln-Way East because we need to step up a little bit," DePaula said. "I am not going to get crazy and schedule all the top teams in the state, but I am going to try and give us a harder schedule, so all year we see where we need to be.
"Next year, I told them I want to be in the middle of the floor celebrating. I want them to remember what it takes to get here. If they truly want to be an elite program like we plan on being, we have to put in the work and now is when that work begins so that this same time next year we are the ones cutting down the nets."