Joliet Central senior Don Joachim has been solid for the Steelmen this season, but he took things to another level Friday in overtime against visiting Romeoville.
Joachim scored 11 of his 23 points in the two overtimes to lead No. 23 Joliet Central to a 58-55 win.
“We’ve been waiting on him to wake up like that,” coach Larry Thompson said. “He’s had good spurts, but this is a big breakout game for him.”
Joachim said he tweaked his ankle in practice Thursday but was trying to show heart and play through the pain. But even he didn’t imagine such a performance.
“I didn’t see this coming,” he said. “I just saw the opportunity, and I took it right away.”
The Steelmen (16-3, 9-0 Southwest Prairie) had a chance to win in regulation, but Ryan Saunders’ three-point attempt was blocked. Then senior Cam Blackmon missed a shot to end the first overtime.
“I was tired. I played the whole game,” Blackmon said. “It was hectic out there, but we got it done.”
Blackmon scored 10 points. Saunders, Joliet Central’s best player, was held to seven points and nine rebounds. He sat the entire second quarter in foul trouble, then was the focus of Romeoville’s defense at the end of the game.
“We lost the lead when had two starters on the bench,” Thompson said. “To hang in there shows how much these guys work in practice, and I’m really proud of the whole team. With [Saunders] on the floor, [Romeoville’s Eddie Creal] didn’t go to help. That opened things up, and I’m really proud of the way [Joachim] finished. He wasn’t soft.”
Steelmen senior Johnny Fuller had five points and nine rebounds, including two crucial boards in the second overtime.
Joliet Central has been ranked since December, but this is its biggest win of the season.
“We have 16 wins,” Thompson said. “Some people think they’re soft because all the teams that are quick and athletic like us, we’ve lost to. Against North Lawndale and Bolingbrook, we were there, but we couldn’t finish. This is really great for our ego. This means a lot because we executed in the halfcourt.”
Senior Kahlil Blakney led Romeo-ville (16-5, 8-1) with 23 points and six rebounds. Deandre Heckard (10 points, six rebounds) had a chance to tie the game at the end of the second overtime but couldn’t get a three-pointer to fall.
“Everybody thinks we’re supposed to lose to Romeoville,” Blackmon said. “We came into the game with a chip on our shoulder. We were tired of losing to teams we were supposed to lose to. We came out here and knew what to do.”
Joliet Central faces another preseason ranked team, Lincoln-Way East, on Saturday at Lincoln-Way West. The Griffins shocked No. 4 Bolingbrook 75-72 on Friday.
“We’re both going to be mentally and physically fatigued,” Thompson said. “But we lost to North Lawndale over the holidays and came back and beat Wheaton-Warrenville South the next day.”