Plainfield East, with precocious sophomore Faith Suggs and Montini transfer Nikia Edom, is a team on everyone's radar this season.
But Willowbrook? Don't sleep on the Warriors.
Wednesday provided further proof, as the Warriors took Plainfield East to the wire before falling 60-55 in the final game of the Willowbrook Thanksgiving Tournament in Villa Park.
Willowbrook coach Terry Harrell felt like this one was a game his girls could have had -- they led by 5 in the final minute of the third quarter. But he wasn't feeling any less about them.
"Plainfield East is a good team. We're a pretty good team, too," Harrell said. "The girls played hard. This has the chance to be a really good team, a team that is good enough to advance in the playoffs. Hopefully pretty deep."
Molly Krawczykowski scored 16 points, her banked 3-pointer with 4:43 left giving Willowbrook (4-2) its last lead at 49-46. Angela Bruno added 14 points and 4 assists, and also guarded Edom into a 9-point, 2-for-9 shooting night.
"Bruno played fantastic," Harrell said. "Whenever we play somebody I put her on the other team's toughest guard and she shuts them down."
Willowbrook played Plainfield East to a 27-27 halftime tie. With Suggs on the bench with three fouls and Bengals burly post Gabriel Williams out with four fouls, the Warriors surged ahead, taking a 40-35 lead on a Colleen Krawczykowski jumper with 2:19 to play in the third.
Plainfield East (5-0) answered with a 9-0 run, going ahead 44-40 on back-to-back steals and scores by Suggs and Edom moments into the fourth.
"We weren't playing with the kind of defensive intensity in the first half that we should have been," Plainfield East coach Missy Mitidiero said. "They responded well. We were able to get a couple of turnovers, which were game-changing for us. That's our game, that's us."
Suggs, a smooth 6-foot forward, scored a game-high 17 points but only managed one free throw over the second and third quarters. She missed 5 free throws at one point but stuck a pair to give her team a 51-49 lead. Bruno tied it 53-53 with two free throws, but at the other end Suggs came off a screen, took a pass from Edom and drilled a top-of-the-key 3 to give her team the lead for good with 2:16 left.
"Nikia's always in the right place at the right time -- I just threw it up there hoping it would go in," Suggs said. "We just needed to focus on winning and hitting our free throws. I struggled with that a little bit."
Williams added 16 points and 13 rebounds for Plainfield East. Anita Sterling scored 9 for Willowbrook.
"What they were able to do was they were able to exploit what we don't have. We don't have a big post player," Harrell said. "They had 7 offensive rebounds in the first quarter. When the big girl got back in they went to her four straight times down the stretch."