CRYSTAL LAKE – The Prairie Ridge girls basketball team used nearly every defensive tactic and trick it knew in hopes of finding a way to stop Huntley.
For a little more than one half, the Wolves’ strategy of using unique defenses, including a 1-3-1 zone, triangle-and-2 and box-and-1, worked. In a game that held Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title implications, the Wolves built a six-point lead midway through third quarter Friday against the Red Raiders and their unblemished division record.
The deficit didn't faze the experienced Red Raiders, however, and the Wolves suddenly had no answer for sophomore forward Ali Andrews. Tied at 25 in the third, Andrews scored Huntley's next 15 points. It was the offensive boost the Red Raiders needed to take the lead, and they held on for the 47-42 FVC Valley win.
Andrews finished with a game-high 22 points, 19 of which came in the second half. The win gives Huntley (18-3, 8-0 FVC Valley) a two-game division lead on Prairie Ridge (15-8, 8-2) with four division games remaining.
"I knew I had to keep going hard at it and look for the open shots and teammates," Ali Andrews said. "We knew they were going to come at us hard because we were their target to beat. We just had to play our game and make sure we were patient."
Prairie Ridge stymied Huntley's offense in the first half, limiting the Red Raiders to only 11 points. The Wolves constantly changed defenses and focused on shutting down Sam and Ali Andrews. Together, they were limited to three first-half points – all of which came on a 3-pointer by Ali Andrews that tied the game at 5 late in the first quarter.
"[Prairie Ridge] flat out out-played us in the first half, getting to every loose ball, defended better and ran a more efficient offense," Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. "We just went in to halftime and said we need to regroup and do a better job of slowing down and recognize what they're doing to us defensively."
Despite scoring 15 first-half points, Prairie Ridge moved the ball well on offense to find open shots. Senior guard Sarah Le Beau led Prairie Ridge with 13 points and senior center Maddie Drain scored nine.
Both teams were forced to work around foul trouble to a key player in the first half. The Red Raiders had to play without one of their best defenders, senior guard Bethany Zornow who sat most of the half with two fouls, while the Wolves’ Drain picked up her third foul midway through the second quarter.
Zornow and Drain still had a big impact despite the lingering foul trouble. Zornow, who often guarded Le Beau, made two 3-pointers in the third quarter that helped Huntley's comeback and Drain scored seven second-half points. Huntley finished with four 3-pointers in the third quarter, which prevented Prairie Ridge from continuing to pack in the paint to try and limit Ali Andrews' touches.
"You know when [defensively] you're trying to trick a good team, it's not going to last," Prairie Ridge coach Rob Baker said. "At some point they're going to figure out what you're doing and find the weak spots and they did. ... I can't fault my kids' effort at all. They played hard. They gave everything they've got."