By Scott Taylor
Out of the 32 regulation minutes, Plainfield North had control of the game for 24 of those minutes in its battle with rival Plainfield East Friday night in the Battle on 119th Street.
However the first three minutes and last five minutes went to the Bengals in what proved to even the game at regulation at 54-54.
In overtime, a charge in the closing seconds against the Tigers negated a tie game and a pair of clutch free throws by Vinny Tarello gave the Bengals a home win, 62-58 to even this year’s series.
“It feels great,” Tarello said. “Everyone knows North is our rival. We got a DJ out here. We don’t have to get hyped for this game. We were not giving up.”
“This is great,” East senior Lee Higgins said. “We knew we could do it. The last four minutes of the fourth we had to make plays and we did that.”
After jumping out to an 8-2 lead, the Bengals went cold and the Tigers took control, leading 19-12 late in the first quarter behind 13 first quarter points from Richie Elias.
The lead grew to 30-18 in the second quarter as North led 30-23 at the half, despite leading scorer Kevin Krieger being held to four points as he missed much of the second quarter with two fouls.
North built its lead to 39-25 in the third quarter before settling for a 41-34 lead after three.
That lead was rebuilt one again at 46-34 with five minutes left in the game when the Bengals made their charge.
They closed the gap to 50-46 with 2:50 left, but 12 seconds later leading scorer and rebounder Elyjah Goss picked up his fifth foul and an ensuing technical built the lead back up to six for North.
But moments later Krieger, who scored 17 points in the second half, picked up his fifth foul with 2:20 left.
“We dominated the game,” North coach Bob Krahulik said. “We couldn’t handle the ball in the last four minutes and that is why we lost. It hurt losing Kevin. He is our closer, he makes free throws and is another ball handler. But they had their big guy out, too. Our other guys have to handle the ball down the stretch.”
After nearly a minute of no scoring, Jordan Reed broke the ice with a banked in three-pointer for the Bengals to make it 52-49 with 1:28 left.
Two free throws by Henry Thompson built the lead back for North, but Higgins came back and got a fortunate bounce off the top of the backboard for a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 54-52.
A North missed layup and a pair of free throws from Higgins tied the game in the final minute to set up overtime.
“We found gaps to get to the basket,” East coach Branden Adkins said. “We shot the ball well down the stretch. Lee got the basket and played hard and Vinny made some big free throws. The kids decided enough was enough and they did it together with the top scorer and rebounder on the bench.”
Tarello gave the Bengals the lead for good at 60-58 in the overtime and set up the big defensive play by Justin Uju, drawing the game-winning charge.
“We had a lot of guys step up,” Tarello said. “I feel like we came together as a unit and got the momentum going. Coached switched to a motion offense so we could take our guys off the dribble. I think they got a little fatigued with our press.”
“This game can be really funny,” Adkins said. “You can scheme and watch film for hours and hours and not sleep and drive yourself crazy. Then you can find a way to win in the last five minutes of the game down 12. We were down throughout and didn’t have the momentum at all. We struggled defensively. Sometimes funny things happen.”
Tarello finished with a game-high 23 points. Reed added 12 and Higgins had 10 for the Bengals.
“I was just taking what the defense gives me,” Tarello said. “Coach always says to keep shooting. My teammates helped me get the right shots.”
Krieger tallied 21 for North, while Elias scored 15 and Thompson had 10.
“We just didn’t finish quarters and that was the difference in the game,” Krahulik said. “We were playing great defense and ran out on offense. We mixed up our defenses a little bit. We just kept putting them at the free throw line at the end.”