Plainfield loses ECC bid to NFA
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Tue., Feb. 28, 2012
There were a few ominous signs for the Plainfield girls' basketball team in the opening minutes of the their ECC semifinal playoff game against NFA on Feb. 22. As the number-one seed in the playoffs, Plainfield hosted the game, but the stands were full of fans from other teams who had played earlier in the day. As it got close to tip off, an army of NFA cheerleaders in red and silver stood behind the basket where the NFA Wildcats were shooting. More disheartening was the slow start, the missed baskets, the plays that didn't set well right from the get-go. It was the sort of beginning that hobbled both teams in the game just prior to their semifinal match-up. It was what both coaches had hoped to avoid in the semi-final match-up. A slow start might siphon off a player's confidence. A team could lose its poise early on.
Fifth-seeded NFA was the first to score, but Plainfield gained and kept a tenuous lead into the third quarter. The Panthers struggled with their shots. They seemed confused on their plays. They couldn't get close to the basket for layups or rebounds. And yet they battled on, scoring at critical times and staying just out of reach of the Wildcats.
When it seemed that Plainfield might get on a roll, something stopped them. A three-pointer was followed by missed shots, a layup by a Wildcat steal. The physical game took its toll on the Panthers, who got into foul trouble as the game wore on. Kim Bouten, who scored more than 1,000 points for Plainfield, fouled out in the fourth quarter. Hailey Griffin, another 1,000-point player, wasn't able to play the full game because of the four fouls she collected. The bench was another shortcoming for Plainfield. NFA went deep into theirs while Plainfield did not.
Two minutes into the third quarter, NFA claimed the lead and kept it for good. Plainfield got within one point several times, but NFA kept stretching out ahead. Fouls in the last minute allowed NFA a comfortable lead to close the game.
When NFA turned up its defensive pressure, the Panthers didn't react well. “We didn't react with poise to their full court pressure,” coach Jason Greene said. “We tried to handle the pressure as individuals, instead of handling it as a team and working through it together.”
The Panthers wouldn't know until two days later that they lost to the ECC champions, but even that would have been cold comfort that night.