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Joliet Central’s Jalen Heath regained his shooting touch at the right time to help the Steelmen beat visiting Lincoln-Way East 57-48 Friday night in the Southwest Suburban Blue opener for both teams.
Heath, a 6-foot senior guard, hit two long-range three-pointers early for Central (4-2, 1-0) before missing his next eight shots. Heath then hit for 13 points in the second half. His trey at the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter gave Central a 45-41 lead over the Griffins (3-1, 0-1).
Heath’s layup with four minutes to play opened the lead to 51-43. Edward McElrath’s free throws down the stretch helped sew up the win.
“We knew they were big,” Heath said. “We felt we had to push the ball and play good defense.”
As for his shooting woes, Heath had the answer for that, too.
“Coach (Jeff Corcoran) told me to keep shooting. He said, ‘When one goes down, you will be all right,’ ” Heath said.
Griffins 6-8 center Jon Junkroski scored 13 points in the first half. He had just two points in the second half, sitting because of foul trouble.
“Jon was having a great night,” East coach Rich Kolimas said. “He picked up a couple of really goofy fouls (his third and fourth in the third quarter). Were they fouls? Probably. It did influence us, because he was having a nice game inside and we were getting the ball to him. When he did go back in, he was a little more conservative and out of rhythm.”
Jonah Coble added 13 points for the Steelmen.