CRYSTAL LAKE – Huntley’s overall defensive performance fell short of its usual standards, but in the final minute the Red Raiders delivered a couple of gems.
First, forward Zach Gorney stepped in front of Crystal Lake South guard Nick Geske to draw a charge. About 30 seconds later, forward Amanze Egekeze came up with his fourth blocked shot of the second half.
Those two stops, combined with solid free-throw shooting, helped Huntley defeat South, 59-53, in their Fox Valley Conference Valley Division boys basketball game Wednesday night at Gator Alley. The Raiders (15-6 overall, 9-0 FVC Valley) have won 29 consecutive division games and can wrap up their third straight Valley title Saturday at Dundee-Crown.
“This was one of our worst defensive games,” Raiders coach Marty Manning said. “Part of that was Crystal Lake South running good offense. We didn’t guard people very well before they got the ball. In the second half, Amanze got some blocked shots and when
you have Division I athletes like Amanze and Bryce to finish it off, that helps.”
Egekeze, a D-I basketball recruit, finished with a team-high 16 points. Only, who will play baseball at Nebraska, scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Egekeze hit 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter, Only was 3 of 4.
“We can’t think too much [about the streak], we just have to focus on every game,” said Egekeze, a 6-foot-7 junior. “My goal is to not lose another [division] game. The streak is nice to have, you know every team is going to give you its best shot.”
South (7-13, 2-6) appeared to do that, even after falling behind by 12 in the first quarter. Behind forward Austin Rogers (23 points) and Geske (19), the Gators kept coming. Rogers scored 16 of his points in the second half and hit 12 of 13 from the line.
“You have to like the fight we had,” Gators coach Matt LePage said. “It’s just getting over the hump when we’re with them. Their complementary players made some big shots. We just have to learn how to finish against good basketball teams.”
Reserve guard Blake Jacobs hit a long jumper and a 3-pointer in the third quarter after South had come back to tie the score. Huntley pushed the lead to 49-42 with 3:31 remaining in the fourth, but the Gators, who hit 9 of 10 free throws in that quarter, kept coming.
Gorney took a charge on Geske with just less than a minute remaining, then hit a pair of free throws for a 57-50 lead.
“I just tried to rotate to the help side, get in front and draw a charge,” Gorney said. “I was at the right place at the right time.”
Geske hit a 3 after Gorney’s free throws, cutting the lead to 57-53. Huntley committed a turnover and Rogers drove to the basket, but Egekeze came to help on defense and blocked his shot. Egekeze missed the first 14 games after having surgery on his right knee to help with patellar tendinitis and is feeling better on the floor.
“I have no pain now, but I haven’t got my jumping back yet,” he said. “In the second half I got more blocks because I felt more warmed up. [Rogers] had been driving the whole game and coach had said earlier that Rogers or [Geske] were their scorers, so the rest of us had to help.”