Everyone in the gym watching the 50th annual Pekin Holiday Tournament Tuesday night knew that Aaron Jordan would take the last shot for Plainfield East.
Evanston’s defense knew it, too, and forced the East star to shoot an airball with time running out.
But Plainfield junior guard Jordan Reed grabbed the loose ball and laid it up at the buzzer for the game-winning basket as East advanced to the championship game with a 58-56 semifinal victory over the Wildkits.
Third-seeded Evanston, which trailed by as much as 7 points in the second half before rallying, will play host Pekin in the tourney’s 3rd place game Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Reed’s bucket was the only score in the final 2 minutes of a closely-contested battle that featured 8 lead changes and 4 ties. Elijah Henry’s free throw with 2:01 remaining pulled the Wildkits into a 56-56 tie, but the losers turned the ball over twice after that with a chance to take the lead.
Henry paced ETHS with 15 points and 6 rebounds while sophomore Nojel Eastern contributed 10 points, but was limited to 4-of-11 shooting from the field. Evanston shot 59 percent (13-of-22) as a team in the second half in its attempt to catch the Bengals.
In the quarterfinals earlier on Tuesday, the Wildkits tripped Rockford Boylan 49-44 after outscoring the Titans 16-11 in the final period. Eastern scored 5 points in the fourth quarter and Evanston survived two missed free throws in the final 18 seconds to hang on for the win.
Eastern dropped in a game-high 15 points, including a 9-of-10 performance at the free throw line. Henry and junior Elijah Williams each registered 8 points for the winners.