HUNTLEY – Dundee-Crown guard Damarion Butler struggled to block out his seven missed fourth-quarter free throws as he stood at the line with 5 seconds remaining.
The Chargers, who led by 14 points 6 minutes earlier, were clinging to a one-point lead after several misadventurous trips to the line. Jack Michalski had just missed two free throws, but Butler grabbed the long rebound after the second shot.
“I was a little scared to be honest because I missed like four in a row before that,” Butler said. “I took a deep breath. All I was thinking was I need to send my team home safely. I wanted to do my best to make my free throws. I concentrated and knocked them down.”
Butler appeared calm as he tossed in both shots for a 53-50 lead over Huntley and when the Red Raiders’ Uchenna Egekeze’s 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim, D-C had a Fox Valley Conference victory and its seventh consecutive win.
With Crystal Lake Central’s loss to Jacobs, D-C (15-3, 7-2) grabbed a one-half game lead in the conference.
D-C guard Trayvon Hatcher made four free throws to start the fourth quarter, at which point the Chargers led, 43-29, and had made 13 consecutive free throws. That was when things got a little strange.
Huntley’s Davis Pasco heated up, hitting three 3-pointers. D-C clanged away at the line and the Red Raiders (10-6, 5-3) closed the gap.
“(The free-throw shooting) was a little bit contagious,” Chargers coach Lance Huber said. “You start thinking about it, it gets in your head and you’re thinking about it instead of what you do a million times. We could have breathed a little easier if we had made a few more free throws in the fourth quarter.”
The Chargers were even in the double bonus most of the quarter. Butler missed his first four, Brad Stec made 2 of 4 and Josh Raby missed two. They hit 10-of-23 free throws in the fourth.
“Our coach always says free throws and layups win games,” Michalski said. “We weren’t closing out on their shooters very well. But we ended up getting those last free throws. (Butler) really stepped up. He was missing, but he kept on working, stayed motivated and got that rebound and hit those two.”
Huntley inbounded the ball to Egekeze, who dribbled to the right wing and got an open look for his last shot. Ryan Sroka led the Raiders with 17 points, Egekeze had 10 and Pasco got all of his nine in the fourth quarter. Huntley beat Dundee-Crown, 56-39, in their first FVC game.
“The difference was in that game we did the little things and in this game we didn’t,” Raiders coach Will Benson said. “We were just a little off with our focus, but they really played well for three quarters and really took it to us. Credit to our kids for not giving up, but that was not the position we wanted to be in.”
Michalski led D-C with 15 points and nine rebounds. Butler finished with nine and Hatcher had eight.
“It’s a good feeling,” Butler said. “They came to our house and they gave us a whupping, so we were trying to return a favor, not necessarily beat them as much as they did, but come in here and show them we’re not going to back down.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Jack Michalski, Dundee-Crown, sr., F
Michalski hit 6-of-11 field goals and led the Chargers with 15 points and nine rebounds as they and took a one-half game lead in the Fox Valley Conference.
7: Consecutive victories for D-C, which last lost to Crystal Lake South on Dec. 21.
AND ANOTHER THING...
Dundee-Crown made its first 13 free-throw attempts in the first 26 minutes. The Chargers missed 13 after that point and finished at 19 of 32 for the game.
Dundee-Crown 53, Huntley 50
Butler 1 7-14 9, Hatcher 2 4-4 8, Raby 3 0-2 7, Michalski 6 3-5 15, Stec 2 2-4 6, Prusko 0 2-2 2, Huber 2 1-1 6. Totals: 16 19-32 53.
Egekeze 3 4-4 10, Sroka 7 2-3 17, Pasco 3 0-0 9, Draper 0 1-2 1, Roppolo 0 0-0 0, Crosby 2 0-0 6, Vrugt 3 0-0 7, DiFrancesca 0 0-0 0, Mendoza 0 0-0 0, Engmann 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 7-9 50.
Dundee-Crown 14 10 15 14 – 53
Huntley 7 10 10 23 – 50
3-point goals: Dundee-Crown 1 (Raby), Huntley 7 (Pasco 3, Crosby 2, Sroka, Vrugt). Total fouls: Dundee-Crown 10, Huntley 21.