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After winning three state titles at Montini, 5-foot-6 guard Nikia Edom decided to go home to finish her high school career.
Plainfield East is happy she did.
Edom had 18 points and seven rebounds in her Bengals debut, and 6-1 sophomore Faith Suggs had 19 points, eight rebounds, a block and two steals as No. 9 Plainfield East opened the season with a 73-62 victory over West Aurora Tuesday in Plainfield.
Edom’s third three-pointer of the first half gave Plainfield East a 21-16 lead 24 seconds into the second quarter.
“I'm adapting to the team well,” said Edom, who held the Bengals together in the first half with Suggs and Gabriel Williams (13 points, nine rebounds) battling foul trouble. “Everyone welcomed me with open arms. We work as a team real well.
“We had a little first-game jitters still going on,” she added. “But it feels great to be back. It was a good first game.”
A basket by Suggs with less than minute remaining in the first half gave Plainfield East a 35-27 lead. The Bengals got huge contributions off the bench in the first half from Alexis Olglesby and sophomores Stephanie DeRuzzo and Mikaela Manson.
“We have a lot of depth,” Edom said. “Anybody can come off the bench and do well. We got into foul trouble early, but it's great having a team that when the next person comes in you don't miss a beat.”
Suggs was limited to just seven points in the first half due to foul trouble.
“You have to be able to adjust and be ready to come back in the game and help the team out,” Suggs said.
Plainfield East extended the lead to 66-46 with 4:15 remaining in the game, but West Aurora went on a 16-2 run to close within 68-62 with 1:02 remaining. The Bengals got a free throw each from Williams and Suggs and three by Edom to close out the game.
“Sometimes we do let it slip away,” said Suggs, remembering similar problems a year ago. “But we’ll be more consistent the more we play.”
Erin Jacobsen led West Aurora with 17 points and six rebounds, Alexis Wiggins added 13 points and Elizabeth Skaggs had 11. Gina Mathews added 10 points for Plainfield East.
“We have to clean up the game in the fourth quarter,” Plainfield East coach Missy Mitidiero said. “We did that last year (give up leads in the final eight minutes). But this year I feel so much more confident that the girls are ready.
“Last year was all about learning how to do it,” she added. “Now I feel we have the tools to do it. We have the kids who believe in this program to do it.”
One of those “kids” celebrated her homecoming Tuesday.
“Nikia’s a great kid from a great family,” Mitidiero said. “I couldn’t be happier that she's here and decided to come back home.”