By Scott Taylor
For the Enterprise
A difficult season for Plainfield East came to a close in a 68-49 loss to Neuqua Valley last Monday.
It was also the final game on the bench for coach Branden Adkins.
Adkins, also the assistant athletic director at the school, was approved this week as new athletic director at Nuqua Valley.
“It was a very tough decision because what we have built here at East,” he said. “Basketball has been life for 22 years and it will be a big change for me and my family not being on the sidelines. I have been thinking about my professional route the last couple of years and knew that I wanted to head into athletic administration. The honor of not only getting an interview but also to be able to obtain the AD position at Neuqua Valley has been an opportunity of a life-time.”
Even though Adkins, is leaving the program, the Bengals will have some familiarity as many players are expected to return next year, as is much of the coaching staff.
“The coaching staff is going to be intact as well,” Adkins said. “There probably isn’t going to be too many changes besides the person at the helm.”
Adkins is the only coach the Bengals have known.
He is the only basketball coach to win multiple regional championships in District 202 history.
“We won two conference championships and two regional championships,” Adkins said. “I’m proud of what we accomplished here from the bottom up. A lot of people have come through our program and came back. It is bittersweet. This isn’t really the way I wanted to end my coaching career.”
In his final game, the Bengals trailed just 25-22 at the half and it was 35-33 midway through the third quarter. The Wildcats opened the lead to nine points at 42-33 but East made it 42-37 after three.
The first five-plus minutes of the fourth quarter though was owned by the Wildcats. They built a 59-41 lead with just 2:30 left in the game.
“Every time we made a run they were able to capitalize with their own run,” East coach Branden Adkins said. “We got some open looks. It happened a lot this year where we were close and on the cusp and we needed to make a basket to get the momentum and just didn’t get it. We had seven overtime games and weren’t able to finish on top in any of them. I like their spirit through the ups and downs. They are really young and if they can keep the edge and work on their individual game, they will be nice players.”
The Bengals had a quick 8-0 spurt to get within 10 points with 1:29 left, but after another turnover from Neuqua, a three-pointer was well off the mark and Neuqua would go on to win.
“It was their lack of experience in varsity competition,” Adkins said of the quick shots throughout the game in key situations. “You can get away with that in situations that aren’t that critical. They are learning that possession is important on both ends.”
It was the story of the year for East, which won four games on the season with a very young team.
The three leading scorers in the game for the Bengals (Yamani Shareef with 14, BJ Robinson with 13 and Collin Reed with 9) were all sophomores.
“There were some guys thrown into the mix who we didn’t expect,” Adkins said. “I give the sophomores a lot of credit for stepping up and competing. Hopefully these experiences will help them in the long run.”
• Plainfield Central fell 57-44 to Lincoln-Way Central, while South lost 43-34 to Lockport.