By Drake Skleba
For the Bugle
The two schools, Plainfield East and Bolingbrook, are approximately six miles apart. The girls on both varsity basketball squads, have played with and against each other, on traveling teams, all their basketball careers. In the Class 4A East Aurora Sectional semifinal on Tuesday night, the Plainfield-Bolingbrook rivalry reached an all-time high.
In the one of the most intensely fought basketball games, in a long time, Plainfield East (25-7) ousted the valiant Raiders of Bolingbrook 69-60. Playing without their 6-2 junior center Jahari Smith (three points, seven rebounds), due to foul problems, junior Gabby Smith and senior Talia Edwards, did everything they could to help the Raiders win.
Gabby Smith led the Raiders with 24-points, six rebounds and six steals, as the Raider defense forced 30 Plainfield East turnovers, on the night. Edwards just missed a double-double, scoring nine points and hauling down 10 rebounds, in her last game wearing the Red and Black of the Raiders.
“This one really, really hurts,” Edwards said. “We know all the girls on Plainfield East and really wanted to win, tonight. We played hard but we just couldn’t consistently get back on defense. I played well tonight but I should have done some things differently. We had a lot of injuries but we still had a fine season.”
Plainfield East, fresh of their stunning victory over No. 1 seed Oswego East (25-4), was led by their 6-0 junior forward Oliva Jenkins. All Jenkins did was score a game-high 25 points and haul down 14 rebounds. Senior Lotanna Onua, added 18 points, while senior Maddie Sidman chipped in with 11 points.
Jenkins and Onua led the Bengals to a 31-25 lead at the half. Jenkins had 11 points while Onua added 10. The Raiders were led by Gabby Smith, who tallied nine first half points. Jahari Smith picked up her fourth foul at the 4:10 mark of the first half.
With 3:30 left in a wild third quarter, Gabby Smith buried a long-range three, to pull the Raiders within two a 40-38. Jenkins answered for two and then Onua struck for a pair of hoops for a 46-38 Bengal lead, with 1:45 left in the quarter. Edwards and Raider freshman Jayden Marable (six points), scored and the Bengals clung to a 46-42 lead after three quarters.
With 7:39 left in the contest, Sidman buried a shot from three point-land, igniting a 7-0 Bengal run. A Jenkins’ bucket and two free-throws, opened up a 53-42 Bengal lead with 6:36 left.
Diving for loose balls, creating turnovers, doing everything they could do to come back, the Raiders closed to within 55-50 with 4:22 left, on freshman Danyel Middleton’s,( six points, three steals) steal and score. With 1:01 left, sophomore Arielle McElroy, scored, pulling the Raiders to within 63-58. The valiant Raiders would get no closer.
“We played hard and battled all night,” Gabby Smith said. “We really want to win and advance further than we did last season. I played well tonight and am looking forward to next season. We return a number of players and are confident that we will be very successful.”
With Gabby and Jahari Smith, to lead the way, look out for the 2017-18 Raiders. Junior Taylor Robinson and freshmen, Jayden Marable and Danyel Middleton, will return, too. Add sophomore Arielle McElroy and four other Raiders, who saw significant playing time, and the future is very bright in Bolingbrook girls’ hoops.
“We played very hard but not very smart,” Bolingbrook head coach Chris Smith. “We caused 30 turnovers tonight but we also committed way too many turnovers. We didn’t get back on defense and get the stops we needed. Gabby played outstanding offense tonight but she must play better defense. My senior Talia Edwards, played well in her last game for us.
“We had a number of injuries this season but still managed to win 17 games. We return a number of quality players next season. We are looking forward to making another run downstate, next season.”