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Plainfield North's Trevor Stumpe and the rest of the Tigers hope things are looking up after last season's 6-20 campaign. | Jeff Vorva For Sun-Times Media
First things first.
We boot Oswego from the Southwest Prairie Conference. Then we go ahead and enjoy a free-for-all for the boys basketball league championship.
That’s the way the season shapes up, Oswego and then everbody else. The No. 20 Panthers (3-1) scored a huge upset win over No. 8 Proviso East last week, as if to spoil our fun by reminding us how good they can be.
But even if Oswego becomes leader of the pack the way the conference race is projected, the battle for second and everything beyond will be tight.
That thought comes from having seen many Southwest Prairie Conference teams during Thanksgiving tournaments. Plainfield North (3-2), Minooka (3-1) and Plainfield Central (2-2) showed well, and Plainfield South (0-5) has something to offer. Romeoville (1-4) may have a ways to go, and Plainfield East (0-4) figured to take awhile to find a groove because of its varsity inexperience. But the Bengals have talent.
Plainfield North and Plainfield South were involved in the Joliet West Tournament. I had the opportunity to see them last Friday, when North rallied from a big deficit to make it close against Bolingbrook before falling. South, meanwhile, lost the subsequent game to Joliet West, which went on to win the tournament. I also saw South on Tuesday night in a 67-60 loss at Joliet Central (3-2).
North played decently well all week. You couldn’t help but wonder how much of a difference 6-foot-3 sophomore forward Trevor Stumpe would have made had he been healthy.
“Trevor pulled a hamstring,” Tigers coach Nick DiForti said of Stumpe, who missed the tournament. “He tried to practice, but he was not 100 percent. Our thought was him at 85 percent might bring more than others at 100 percent, but he wasn’t at that level. We hope he is able to go Friday.”
North, which won its league opener Tuesday 60-43 over Romeoville, will visit Minooka on Friday night in the Indians’ SPC opener.
Stumpe already has an offer from UIC, and DiForti said other Division I programs are beginning to show interest.
“When we get him back, it will help our other guys,” he said.
Those others include senior guards and experienced team leaders Marcus Fair, Kurt Palandech and Kendall Interial. They play hard.
“We played better in our four Thanksgiving games than we did all of last year,” DiForti said. “We had at least three guys in double figures every game.”
Especially if Stumpe is available, but even if he is not, the game at Minooka should be a dandy.
The Indians finished third at the WJOL Tournament and led an SPC surge on the final day. They beat Joliet Central 60-50, while Plainfield Central topped Lockport 48-43 for fifth place and Romeoville outscored Joliet Catholic 59-42 for seventh.
All-Tournament selection Jake Hogen and fellow senior guard Darrin Myers are leaders for Minooka. But the Indians have plenty more. Look for junior big man Mark Geers and freshman Joe Butler to contribute.
Minooka got off on the wrong foot with a loss to eventual runner-up Providence but was impressive the rest of the tournament. Coach Scott Tanaka runs a disciplined system that produces results. Last season under Tanaka, the Indians won 20 games for the first time in about 35 years.
Plainfield Central can be dangerous as well. Logan Velasquez is one of the best post players in the SPC, guard Curtis Harrington has experience and freshman Justin Windt is an exciting addition. Velasquez had 15 points and nine rebounds and Windt scored 12 against Lockport.
South, under first-year coach Tim Boe, has only three seniors, but the Cougars are competitive, and Alonzo Garrett and Corey Evers can shoot it. The trick now is to put together four good quarters. The task will not be easy Friday, when South opens SPC play against Oswego.
Outside the Suburban Prairie Conference
Providence (3-1) made a strong run at the WJOL Tournament championship, dropping a 53-46 decision to Crete-Monee in the title game. Sophomore Miles Boykin scored 16 points and senior guard Kevin Kozan added 12 to go with five assists. Boykin and Kozan made the six-player All-Tournament team, as did Minooka’s Hogen and Joliet Central’s Jonah Coble.
Coble poured in 22 points in Tuesday’s win over Plainfield South. Eddie McElrath added 15 points and Jalen Heath 14 points.
“Jonah is a scorer,” said Central coach Jeff Corcoran, whose team faces a tall test Friday night against Lincoln-Way East. “That’s the kind of performance he should have night in and night out.
“Eddie was in some foul trouble early. But he took control at the foul line at the end. That’s what we want from him as our point guard. Jalen can flat out score. He has to play both ends of the floor, and he definitely has picked it up on the defensive end.”