When Anthony Waznonis took over the Plainfield East girls basketball program prior to this season, he did so late in the process and did not have the full complement of summer workouts with the team, which has set the Bengals back a little.
“With me coming in new and not having the summer, we are still a team that is learning at the season goes on,” Waznonis said. “A lot of teams have been together a long time and have reached a plateau and we still have a ceiling to get to. We have been competing with really good teams. We have been unlucky in that we caught Minooka who is on a roll and Oswego East who has been on a roll.”
Friday night, the Bengals got off to a fast lead, being up 6-0 out of the gate and only being down 27-22 to Minooka at the half. The Indians, however, came back to win 48-36.
“I told them at halftime that Minooka is a seasoned team and they are not going to get flustered,” Waznonis said. “We limited our turnovers to under 10, but our issue is we need to get more than 10 turnovers – that’s our game.”
Waznonis said there is a difference in the losses the Bengals are experiencing now and what they may have had earlier this year.
“I told them that we are getting beat and there is a difference in getting beat by a good team and beating ourselves,” he said. “Being young, we struggle with adjustments and not just forcing things down people’s throats. Early on, we hit shots and in the third quarter, we didn’t come out ready to go.”
For Plainfield East, these are lessons that the team is learning and growing from.
“We have to learn these lessons and hopefully by the end of the season, we don’t just learn them heading into next year,” Waznonis said. “We are hoping that we learn it for the end of this year. We have seniors on this team that are hard workers and they deserve good things too.”
Waznonis said he has witnessed the progression in the team from day one to now.
“I see it,” he said. “We hope that the expectations here are that we expect to win these games. That is what we expect, but it is hard when you play these really good teams that are not just going to give it to you, you have to earn it. This conference is extremely competitive and that is good, because we are going it teaches us the lessons we need for playoffs and into next year.”
It is not only the coach that sees it.
“We have made a lot of progress with our new coach,” said Plainfield East senior Chizua Onua. “We are seeing this year that we can win games, we just need to fix the little things and if we do that, we will be good. We have to come out with energy all the time. (Against Minooka) we had that energy early and lost it in the third quarter. We got in back late, but we need it all game.”
Although this senior group will not be around when East hits the stride its hoping for, Onua is happy to be part of the process.
“It is fun to be part of this starting process,” she said. “With our new coach, we are going to build a new culture here at Plainfield East and it is good to be one of the starting blocks of the new program.”