By Scott Taylor | @Taylor_Sports
In a physical defensive battle, No. 7 seed Joliet Central in the Lockport Sectional topped No. 10 Plainfield East 46-43 Wednesday in a Lincoln-Way Central semifinal.
Jose Grubbs made the key plays down the stretch for the Steelmen, giving them a 43-41 lead with 1:03 left in the game and then blocked a shot and got the rebound on the other end and was fouled with 30 seconds left.
“I just created and you have to do what you have to do to get the win,” Grubbs said of the basket. “That is a great team over there. I would love to play them again. That is a really high scoring team and that is a testament to our guys. We bust our butts in practice and we earned this one.”
While he missed the free throw, teammate Malik Fuller grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled.
From there the Steelmen defense finished off the game, while they were able to convert 3-of-6 free throws in the final 30 seconds.
“We anticipated it being tight and in the 40-50 range,” Joliet Central coach Jeff Corcoran said. “The kids executed for the most part. We wanted to make them run their offense for 20 to 30 seconds.”
“This was a huge win,” Gubbs said. “Nobody wants to play them right now. I think we have what it takes to bring home a regional title.”
The game was tight throughout as it was tied 9-9 after one and Joliet Central held a 20-19 lead at the half.
The Steelmen had the biggest lead of the game at 30-24 in the third quarter, but it was back to 33-31 after three.
Fuller finished the game with 13 points, while Grubbs added 11 for Joliet Central, who had seven key offensive rebounds in the game.
They have (Elyjah) Goss over there in the middle and we had to put a body on him,” Grubbs said. “We did what we had to do and got a body on him and the other guys got the rebounds and putbacks.”
The Steelmen were also able to overcome the difficult full court press by the Bengals.
“The last week with Bolingbrook and West, while we didn’t perform the way we wanted to, I think it set the table with the kind of team Plainfield East is and running guys at you,” Corcoran said. “We weren’t successful last week, but we were able to tighten some things up and that helped tonight.”
The win put the Steelmen in the regional final, which takes place Friday at Lincoln-Way Central at 7 p.m. against the host school, the No. 2 seed in the sectional.
“We know what kind of team they are,” Corcoran said of the Knights. “They are patient and they run their stuff. It will be hard on only one night rest, but we wanted to be in that situation.”