Huntley set to face familiar foe Auburn
Huntley can be thankful for one thing as it prepares to meet Auburn in a sectional for the third time in four seasons – Fred VanVleet’s in Wichita.
The Red Raiders saw enough of the former Knights guard in the Class 4A Jacobs Sectional in 2011 and again in the Dundee-Crown Sectional the next year. Auburn ended Huntley’s season, convincingly, both times.
VanVleet is now a sophomore guard averaging 12.1 points a game for No. 2-ranked and unbeaten Wichita State. Although Huntley (21-7) still will face one of its biggest challenges against Auburn (26-5) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a semifinal at the Class 4A Elgin Sectional boys basketball tournament at Chesbrough Field House.
Jacobs (18-13) faces South Elgin (17-14) in the second semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Huntley’s 6-foot- 8 senior forward Amanze Egekeze, who played on the Raiders’ two previous sectional teams, finds it fitting they will see Auburn again.
“We feel like they’re a very good opponent, but we match up in some areas very well against them,” said Egekeze, who averages 17.9 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. “We can compete against some of the better teams in the state. We almost beat Fremd. I feel like, if everyone comes in and we make some shots and put pressure on them, we’re capable of beating them.”
Auburn is led by guards Antoine Pittman (16.9 points) and Laytwan Porter (16.5, 66 3-pointers), both of whom have received NCAA Division I offers. Knights coach Bryan Ott said both players have offers from Chicago State, Eastern Illinois and Northern Illinois, with interest from other schools.
“We’ll have our hands full guarding them,” Huntley coach Marty Manning said. “They’re not as good as VanVleet, but they’re really good.”
Manning feels a key aspect will be how Huntley can handle Auburn’s defense, which often overplays passing lanes in hopes of forcing turnovers.
“They pressure the heck out of the ball and take away the easy pass,” Manning said. “That’s the way they score the majority of their points on layups. We’re going to have to handle that pressure.”
Manning said he had four DVDs of Auburn highlights. Ott, as of Sunday night, had one on Huntley.
“I know they’re a very disciplined, patient team,” Ott said. “They have guys who understand their roles very well. It looks like they defend very hard and talk and help well on defense.”
Ott remembered Egekeze, but not in the expanded role he has taken. With Egekeze leading the way, the Raiders won their fourth consecutive Fox Valley Conference Valley Division championship and now have their third regional title in four years.
“I know how [Auburn] beat Huntley the last two times we’ve been to the sectional,” said Raiders 6-4 forward Zach Gorney, who averages 11.6 points and 4.0 rebounds. “If we play a good game, we can beat them. This was one of our goals at the beginning of the year, to get to the sectional. Everyone on our team really wanted to get here. We can win this sectional if we come out and play well.”
“You want to be playing your best ball at the end of the year,” he said. “I feel like we’re doing that right now. It’ll be a challenge, but I think we’re up for it.”