JOLIET – Both Minooka girls basketball coach Ray Liberatore and senior Ashley Clemmons couldn’t remember if they had been part of a team that accomplished the same feat the Indians did Wednesday night.
That feat? Holding an opposing team without a field goal in the first half of play, which is what Minooka did in a 49-23 win over Bradley-Bourbonnais in the semfinals of the Class 4A Joliet West Regional.
“Actually, that’s a first, especially this year, because this year’s been rough,” Clemmons said. “We just knew we wanted to win this game, because we feel like we have a really good chance to win this regional and get back-to-back [regional championships].”
Bradley-Bourbonnais (6-22) had just three converted free throws in the first half, going 3 of 7 from the line. The Boilermakers didn’t convert their first field goal until around a minute into the third, thanks to Kayla Hyde.
“Not really,” Liberatore said when asked if he remembered holding a team without a field goal in a half. “At least not in a regional.”
The top-seeded Indians (12-16) move on to face Joliet West in the regional final, which will take place Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Tigers beat Danville, 60-52, in the other semifinal.
Even though Minooka finished the regular season under .500, the Indians will still be playing for that coveted regional crown. Last season, Minooka won a regional championship for the first time since 1980.
The Indians caught a break when they were placed into the weaker Joliet West Regional, and now, their focus is on getting the regional plaque in back-to-back years.
“It’s important because it lets our school know most importantly that we’re good, we’re not just a team,” Clemmons said. “We want more support next year so we want to do good.”
In a relatively easy win over the Boilermakers, Minooka scored the first 11 points of the game. The Indians led 16-2 after the first quarter and held a commanding 26-3 advantage at halftime.
Liberatore’s main goal when it came to his team’s defense was to simply slow down Hyde, a 1,000 point scorer that had 29 points in Bradley-Bourbonnais’ 46-40 win over Joliet Central in the regional quarterfinal on Monday.
The Indians tried double-teaming and trapping Hyde, who still ended up with 11 points. However, nine of the 11 came in the second half when the game was all but over.
“She’s scored over 1,000 points in her career. Anyone who’s done that you know is pretty darn good,” Liberatore said. “So our game plan was to shut her down, and especially in the first half we did. Shut her down, and we thought we’d definitely have a good chance to win the game tonight.”
Offensively, Clemmons led the Indians with 18 points. Fifteen of those came in the first half, as Liberatore used his bench more frequently in the second half with the big lead.
Bradley-Bourbonnais tried to double-team Clemmons, but she was still able to earn baskets inside and get to the free throw line as well.
“We tried fronting, we tried a little double team on [Clemmons],” Boilermakers coach Brian Anderson said. “But she’s a good, heck of a ballplayer.”
Anderson thought his team did a good job of limiting the Indians’ outside game, as no other Indian had more than seven points on the night.
“We shut down their outside shooting. We were worried about [Sara Placher] and [Sam Wurtz]. We shut them down from the outside,” Anderson said. “They’re their big guns from the outside. We just can’t get both sides. Can’t get both sides, inside and outside.”
Placher complimented Clemmons with a seven-point effort. Three Indians – Wurtz, Karli Karter and Ann Marie Bachmann, ended the night with five points.
One thing Liberatore said hasn’t exactly been consistent with his team this season is free throw shooting. That changed on Wednesday, with the Indians going 13-for-14 from the line.
Of course, that effort began with Clemmons, who made all eight of her free throw attempts.
“Again, it started with Ashley,” Liberatore said. “We talked before the game how our seniors had to show the way. I thought she did a nice job of that tonight.”