ELGIN – The secret to Huntley’s offensive success against Chicago Corliss wasn’t highly guarded Friday.
Senior forward Amanze Egekeze hadn’t done much since winning the tip-off until he grabbed a pass and bounced it in off the glass to give Huntley a 5-0 lead early in the consolation semifinal of the Elgin Holiday Tournament
“That’s the first time he’s touched the ball in three minutes,” Huntley coach Marty Manning yelled at his players from his bench.
After a few fouls, Egekeze (20 points) took a rest until the second quarter, in which he surged on the floor – a layup, then a rebound, an assist, then a three-point play, a block and another block. He broke open Corliss’ defense, leading to a 68-48 victory and a spot in the consolation championship against Englewood on Saturday.
“Obviously, he’s really important because he’s the best player on our team,” Manning said after the game. “But that doesn’t mean he’s the only guy who can score.”
Senior forward Zach Gorney (15 points) proved that as he also pushed the Raiders' offense, a crew that had 12 players who scored.
“Most teams, they’re gonna double-team, triple-team Amanze,” Gorney said. “If we have other people, other weapons that can score, it really opens up the floor and helps us win games.”
Gorney was instrumental in the Raiders’ scoring surger in the second quarter, but on the other side of the ball. Huntley led 16-10 after the first quarter, and it exited the half leading 34-15. The difference was rebounding, Manning said, especially that of Gorney and senior guards Riley Wicks and Blake Jacobs.
“We blocked out well, which is really important against a team that’s athletic and can jump over you,” Manning said. “I thought they did a good job of that.”
At times, though, the Raiders struggled defensively. On top of junior forward George Charles (13 points) scoring in the paint, senior point guard Richard Mitchell (nine points) cut right and blasted past Huntley’s defense, leading to a stretch of bucket-for-bucket basketball in the fourth period.
“He was able to do it four or five times tonight,” Manning said. “I thought [our defensive effort] was slightly above average.”
At times, Corliss’ defense challenged Huntley with a full-court press, stifling the Raiders. Players on both teams notably stuttered and fumbled with the basketball during nearly three minutes of scoreless play in the third period. Turnovers and shaky decision making cost Huntley its first game of the tournament, and they’re something the Raiders continue to work at leading into the consolation final and eventually postseason play.
“From the first game, one of the things that we talked about was being much stronger and more confident with the basketball and decisions that we’re making,” Manning said. “We improved a little bit yesterday, a little bit today, but I still don’t think we’re where we need to be.”