On the back of the Bengals’ jerseys, where a player’s last name would sometimes be printed, are three letters: E.O.E.
It stands for “East Over Everything,” Bengals coach Kanwer Sakaria said.
“In this era where everyone wants to transfer or move on to the next best opportunity, we want our kids to commit to the program,” he said. “The kids have bought into that, and they believe in it.
“What it boils down to is grit and pride. That’s our style.”
It means a little more than that to Jet Jones III, who led the Bengals with 11 points.
“That’s something the team created this year,” Jones said about E.O.E. “It means more than just basketball. We’re like a family. It makes us want to work even harder when we feel like the guys on the floor with us are like family.”
The Bengals (9-9, 3-6 SPC) didn’t waste much time before imposing their tenacious style on the game.
Minooka (3-16, 0-9) kept things close early, and the game was tied at six midway through the first quarter. East then ramped up the defensive intensity and closed the first quarter on an 11-3 run, getting a 3-pointer by Ehi Ogbomo (10 points), a steal and layup by Caleb Jackson (four points), a free throw by Jurrien Davis (seven points), a 3-pointer by Kevin Tchoffa (five points) and a putback bucket by Andrew Soenksen (six points, five rebounds).
During the stretch, Minooka managed only a 3-pointer by Isaiah DuPree, and the Bengals took a 17-9 lead into the second quarter.
The Bengals’ parade of points continued in the second quarter, as Soenksen scored off an assist from Jackson, and DeSean Miller (five points) followed with a 3-pointer. After a free throw by Minooka’s Nick Andreano (five points), Ogbomo scored on a jumper in the lane and then went coast to coast with a rebound for a 26-10 East lead. Jones followed with a floater on the baseline and another short jumper for a 30-10 advantage with 4:26 to play in the first half.
“We wanted to put pressure on them,” Jones said. “All through our practices this week, the focus was on the defense. We are pretty good in transition, so we figured that our defense can create some offense for us.
“Also, if we aren’t letting the other team score very much, it takes some pressure off of the offense, and we can relax a little more.”
The plan worked nearly perfectly. The Bengals held the Indians to just 14 points in the first half and led 34-14 at halftime. Preston Van Pelt scored four of his team-high seven points in the latter stages of the second quarter for Minooka.
“We got blitzed early,” Minooka coach Kevin Cain said. “We didn’t handle their pressure very well, and we weren’t able to stop their runs. We were outplayed on both sides of the ball.
“We knew coming in that they would pressure us, so we have no excuses. We have to come out and play. We have to want the basketball, and we didn’t do a good job of that. We have to keep growing and learning and be the best version of ourselves when February comes around.
“Everyone’s record is 0-0 when the postseason starts, and we want to be playing our best at that point.”
Minooka scored the first three points of the second half on a basket by Andreano and a free throw by Joe Wunar, but were only able to score two more points in the quarter on a basket by Ethan Martin in the final seconds. In between, East scored 12 straight points, including five by Jones, a steal and layup by Tchoffa, a 3-pointer by Ogbomo and a putback by Soenksen.
“After Tuesday [a double-overtime loss to West Aurora], the kids were a little more motivated,” Sankaria said. “I am proud of the way they bounced back. We had a great couple of practices, and our senior leadership did a great job of making guys accountable.
“Defense has been our calling card, and we came to the epiphany that if we hold team to lower scores, then we don’t have to score as much to win. It was really good to see the effort from our guys tonight.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle