SOUTH HOLLAND — By halftime of Monday's Class 4A Thornwood Boys Basketball Regional game versus Plainfield Central, Minooka's chances of advancing looked decent, but were hardly overwhelming.
The chances of senior swingman Jake Hogen becoming the first 1,000-point scorer in Minooka history looked considerably worse. Hogen, who entered 16 points short of the milestone, had just three points at the half.
That the odds of both things happening increased greatly in the first few minutes of the third quarter was not coincidental. Hogen had 11 points in the first 3:31 of the quarter as the Indians' lead grew from 8 points to 21. They went on to win 65-50 and will play Lincoln-Way North at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in a semifinal game.
"When I had struggled in the first half ... you can't help but let it creep into your mind, that you've got a long way to go (for the milestone)," Hogen, who finished with 18 points, said. "Fortunately I wasn't able to find my shot, but it wasn't about that. I wasn't worried about where I ended up. All that mattered was us winning."
Hogan was held scoreless in the first quarter, and he was not alone in starting slow. Minooka trailed 14-9 by its conclusion as it had six turnovers and just one made three-pointer.
"It's so difficult to beat the same team three times," Minooka coach Scott Tanaka said, "and that's what you saw in the first quarter. At that point, we just had to stay true to ourselves, continue to play solid defense and continue to play our game."
Adam Holstine hit a pair of threes around one from Hogen early in the second quarter, however, and the floodgates soon opened. Senior point guard Darrin Myers hit three threes in 42 seconds of game time later in the quarter. Collectively, the Indians went 6-for-9 from three-point land in the quarter, and they took a 31-23 lead at halftime.
Hogen then added three more threes in the third quarter and also scored a pair of regular field goals, helping Minooka build a 50-31 lead by the end of the third. Myers, who was 4-for-4 from three-point land in the first half, attempted just one three-pointer, which he missed, in the second as Hogan took over.
"I wasn't concerned about the points I was scoring," Myers said. "I knew (Hogen) is too good a shooter to stay cold for too long, so if there's a chance to get him open looks, we're going to do it. With the way I had been shooting, they tried to take that away, and that helped open things up for him."
Minooka went 10-for-22 on three-pointers — and has to miss all five of its fourth-quarter attempts to fall below 50 percent — but the victory was also made possible in part by a defense that forced 27 Central turnovers. Senior guard Perry Jones had four steals for the Indians.
"It had a lot to do with it," Myers said. "We changed some things to try and put more pressure on our opponents. Coach feels that doing so will lead to more easy points and it did tonight."