CARY – Cary-Grove’s first game against Huntley – a 58-25 loss in Huntley on Dec. 17 – marked a low point.
“Our worst game of the season,” C-G guard Jason Gregoire said, “by far.”
So consider Thursday’s rematch at Elroy Fitzgerald Gymnasium as C-G’s summit.
The Trojans rode a solid shooting performance and withstood 30 points from Huntley’s Amanze Egekeze to defeat the Red Raiders, 51-48, in their Fox Valley Conference Valley Division boys basketball game.
Huntley (15-6 overall, 7-1 FVC Valley) had won nine consecutive FVC Valley games and 38 of its last 40 division contests. The Raiders still are in control to win their fourth FVC Valley title in a row.
“It was such a fun atmosphere to come out and be able to knock off the reigning champs,” Trojans guard Tyler Szydlo said.
Gregoire scored 21 points to lead C-G (14-9, 6-3) and hit two crucial free throws with 26 seconds remaining.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Gregoire said. “We felt we had a really good chance to knock them off. We came into this game expecting to win.”
Egekeze, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, hit a pair of free throws with 1:27 remaining to put the Raiders ahead 48-47. Szydlo, who is 6-2, found himself faced up against Egekeze with 1:00 to go on the left side. His pump fake got Egekeze to commit slightly, giving Szydlo enough room to drive for a layup.
“Coach [Ralph] Schuetzle said to look for the pump fake because he’s going to try to block everything in there,” Szydlo said. “He moved a little and I thought I’d take my chance and take it strong to the hole. He didn’t leave the ground, but it was just enough and I tried to take advantage.”
Huntley missed and Gregoire rebounded, was fouled and made both shots. On the ensuing possession, Szydlo stepped in front of Egekeze coming across the lane and Huntley called a timeout with 13.6 remaining. Egekeze’s deep 3-pointer from the key was short and the Trojans rebounded.
“We’ve had games where we haven’t played our best, but we found ways to win, but sooner or later that was going to catch up to us,” said Egekeze, who was 12 of 19 from the field and 5 of 5 on free throws. “There were so many points in that game where we could have taken control and we didn’t do it.”
Raiders coach Marty Manning looked at his team’s 6 of 15 free-throw shooting – 1 of 10 without Egekeze – and other missed opportunities.
“[Free throws] hurt us huge,” Manning said. “I don’t have an explanation. We missed quite a few layups too. We needed to make some of those layups that we had and our free throws.”
Huntley is shooting 64.4 percent from the line for the season and hit 4 of 13 in the second half.
C-G had to adjust in the second half after Huntley, predominantly a man-to-man defense team, switched to a 2-3 zone to prevent Gregoire from driving. The Trojans struggled for a while, but were 5 of 7 from the field in the fourth quarter.
C-G reserve Nick Barr hit two short jumpers from the left baseline in the fourth quarter, Gregoire and Devin McDonough hit big 3s and Szydlo drove for the go-ahead basket. After the game, a fired-up Schuetzle high-fived every person in the sparse C-G student section.
“When you make a man-to-man team go zone, you’re doing something right,” Schuetzle said. “We didn’t have much going in the second quarter [after the switch]. We made the adjustments. We got and Nick on the baseline, those baskets were huge. We got Jason [Gregoire] outside and Tyler [Szydlo] on the inside. That was all in that last adjustment.
“We just wanted to win that game down the stretch.”