By Scott Taylor | @Taylor_Sports
Trailing 26-6 late in the first half, it appeared No. 6 seed Plainfield North was in major trouble against No. 11 Sandburg Tuesday night in a Neuqua Valley Regional semifinal.
But, after cutting the lead to 12 at the half, the Tigers mounted a furious rally to pull away and win, 61-53.
“They jumped on us early and we didn’t have any answers,” North coach Bob Krahulik said. “We turned up the defensive pressure and got some confidence going into the half and in the second half we started playing our style of basketball. We could have packed it up and went home for the year down 20, but these seniors were resilient tonight. This was a huge win for them.”
It was Henry Thompson’s hot shooting that provided the difference in the game as he hit seven three-pointers and finished the game with 23 points to lead the Tigers back.
“I shot pretty bad in the first half,” Thompson said. “Coach told me to come out and shoot with confidence in the second half. I kept shooting and I am happy they fell. They were giving me some room and I was happy to make some.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 17-2 lead in the first quarter and held a 26-6 lead in the second quarter before the Tigers bounced back to make it 29-17 at the half.
It was a 39-25 Sandburg lead in the third quarter, but North scored 13 unanswered points to cut the lead to 39-38. It was 43-41 after three.
“We just played pressure defense, went out in transition on offense and shot with confidence,” Thompson said. “Once we got a couple down, we felt better and knew we could push the ball and get to them.”
North took its first lead of the game to open the fourth quarter on a three-pointer by Thompson.
After the teams went back-and-forth, North held the ball with less than five minutes left for nearly two minutes before the Eagles went out of their zone.
“Part of it was we had two guys with four fouls, but we knew if we got them out of the zone, they would have to play our style of basketball,” Krahulik said. “It opens it up for our guards and we got a dunk and we knew that would happen.”
That was all the Tigers needed to put the game away as they scored 12 of the final 17 points in the game.
Kevin Krieger added 18 points for North, which faces No. 3 Joliet West Friday at 7 p.m. in the regional final. It is a rematch of the Pontiac Tournament thriller in which West was victorious.
“We lost a heartbreaker to them earlier, so we’re looking forward to Friday,” Thompson said. “We need to handle the ball well.”
“We’ve won 10 out of 12 and are playing well,” Krahulik said. “We need to control ball penetration and stay out of foul trouble.”