Minooka’s best player, senior Jon Butler, fouled out late in the fourth quarter on Tuesday. The Indians were clinging to a four-point lead and found themselves dealing with a brand new challenge.
“That’s never happened before, we’ve never had that happen in four years,” Minooka coach Scott Tanaka said. “It’s the first time he’s ever fouled out.”
It didn’t faze the Indians one bit. They just continued to play tremendous, lockdown defense. Butler headed to the bench with 2:16 to play and visiting Oswego didn’t score again. Minooka won 42-35.
“I had confidence in my teammates,” Butler said. “I was just mad at myself because I felt like I let the team down because a lot of our offense involves me. But my teammates did a great job, I’m really proud of how they shut them down, it was awesome.”
The Indians held Oswego scoreless for the final 2:42 of the third quarter and final 2:41 of the game.
“The kids believe in our defense,” Tanaka said. “I’m so lucky as a coach to have 13 guys that believe in whatever we teach them. That’s how that happens, because [Oswego] can score.
Tanaka’s program has developed a reputation around the area. Nobody really wants to admit that Minooka (19-6, 8-2 Southwest Prairie) is a quality team, but no one wants to play them.
“We get no love,” Tanaka said. That’s alright though. We like it, it fuels us. We don’t have the superstar going to a Division I school or anything like that. We just have a lot of kids that believe in what we teach out here.”
Tanaka said it took four years to build the defensive, team-first mentality at the program.
“But then the last five or six years have been fantastic,” Tanaka said. “We’ve had Butler’s here for awhile now. They lead by example. All coaches know that when your best player is your hardest worker everything goes better.”
Jon Butler led the Indians with 12 points. Joe Butler, who graduated last year, became a minor sensation in the Will County area during his senior year.
“You did not get to see how good Jon Butler is,” Tanaka said. “He might be better than Joe, he has been playing that well. He had 14 points against in the fourth quarter against Plainfield Central last week.”
John Carnagio came off the bench to score 11 and grab five rebounds for Minooka. Keegan Graebner and Brandon Hill were the defensive stars for the Indians, they combined to hold Oswego senior Jaylen Jones to just 11 points, he averages 19.
“[Jones] is a great player,” Graebner said. “We just tried to tire him out and make shots tough for him.”
The Panthers (8-14, 5-5 Southwest Prairie) entered on a four-game winning streak. They had won six of their last eight games with the two losses coming to No. 1 Bolingbrook and No. 12 Joliet West. Oswego beat West Aurora on Saturday.
Senior Elliott Pipkin led the Panthers with 12 points and five rebounds. Sophomore Dylan Engler scored seven and looks to have a promising future.
“We’re very young,” Oswego coach Matt Borrowman said. “We play an incredibly good schedule, seven teams that have cracked the top 25. It’s finally starting to pay off. This was a big improvement from the last time we played Minooka, we just came up short.”