St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore has used plenty of strategies over the course of his 45-year career, so it was no surprise that he was able to find a way to fight off a deliberate and determined Plainfield East squad.
The Chargers used a second-half comeback to force overtime and eventually take a 42-40 win for the St. Charles East tournament title Saturday night.
After falling behind double digits and trailing 27-21 at halftime, the Chargers (4-0) powered their way back to tie it at 33-33 in the third quarter. The Bengals had been very successful with a zone defense until Pingatore went with a stall, forcing the Bengal defenders to come out and pick them up.
“I was just trying to get the defense to come out so we could get some penetration,” said Pingatore. “Sometimes you get it right.”
With the score tied at 38 in the fourth quarter, Plainfield East senior Aaron Jordan came up with a steal and was fouled with 13.2 seconds left. Two straight dead ball fouls on the Chargers still did not put the Bengals in the bonus, and the ball was then stolen by senior Jordan Ash, who called timeout at 11.2 seconds. Watson attempted a three but missed.
The Chargers were once again content to limit the Bengals’ possessions in overtime and run down the clock. Senior Joffrey Brown scored on a huge drive to give St. Joe’s the lead at 40-38. Plainfield East junior Jordan Reed was fouled and hit both free throws to tie the game at 40-40.
St. Joe’s maintained possession and called time out with 45 seconds to go. Watson was hacked by Jordan on a drive with 4.2 seconds left, after which Watson hit both free throws to give them 42-40 lead and seal the game.
“This was a tough game this early in the year,” Pingatore added. “We haven’t even practiced some of this stuff. But we’re going to be alright, by the end of the year.”
Watson earned tournament MVP honors with 10 points, while Ash scored 15. Junior 6-11 center Nick Rakocevic chipped in 6 points, all in the second half.
The Bengals were led by Illini commit Jordan with 15 points, although he did not score in the second half and overtime.