CRYSTAL LAKE – The Huntley boys basketball team found itself down by 10 points at the half, but a collectively better effort in the second half propelled the Red Raiders to a 65-46 win over Belvidere North in the third game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday night.
“Not necessarily,” Huntley coach Marty Manning said when asked if he made adjustments during halftime. “Our problems ran so deep during that first half that I told the guys there really isn’t anything we can do but simply play better.”
And play better they did. The Red Raiders went on a 17-2 run in the middle of the third quarter that was powered by an impressive shooting display by Tommy Regan and Jake Wagner. The two combined for 35 points and each added a pair of three-point field goals.
The Red Raiders were effective from just about everywhere on the floor, and Belvidere switched tactics and tried to foul the tandem late in the game rather than see big shots fall. Their plan was foiled by Huntley’s outstanding performance at the free-throw line, making 18 of 20 attempts.
“We all just got into it,” Regan said. “We pressured the ball well in the second half and we contested their shots a lot better. When we were able to do that well, it opened up the floor for us offensively. We just stayed calm and played as a team.”
The defense played an outstanding second half. After allowing a 23-point second quarter, the Red Raiders allowed only 14 points the rest of the way. And even though Manning said he didn’t change anything at halftime, his team came out with a different mindset to open the third quarter.
“In our previous game, we came out way too flat on defense,” the coach said. “So we wanted to come out aggressive, and I think we overplayed the ball too much and we found ourselves getting into foul trouble and we let them have too many open shots, so we just relaxed and played our game.”
While the defense had it figured out at the start of the third, it took the offense a bit longer. The root of the problem that Huntley faced offensively early on was what propelled them to the victory – the 3-point shot.
The Red Raiders had it working Friday night, making seven from behind the arc, five of which came in the second half. That shot is what started the 17-2 scoring run in the middle of the third and acted as a safety valve when plays broke down.
Huntley doesn’t have a scoring presence in the post as it is playing without its best player in 6-foot-7, 200-pound junior center Amanze Egekeze, who is sidelined with a knee injury until his targeted return date of Jan. 7.
“Right now, no,” Manning said when asked if his team could overcome such games when the 3-point shot isn’t falling. “Our team is kind of just that type of team right now, a shooting 3s team. We are essentially playing with five guards because we don’t have that post player until Egekeze comes back. This is how we will look for awhile and hopefully we can take the right shots and they are going to have to fall.”
Prairie Ridge 57, Antioch 21: The Wolves had everything going, scoring 18 points in the first quarter behind a well-rounded offensive attack. The Wolves saw no dip in production throughout the game as 10 players contributed to the 57 points while dominating the paint and beyond the 3-point arc.
The Prairie Ridge defense was clicking as well, and Antioch couldn’t break through the Wolves’ strong rotation defense, allowing no more than seven points in any quarter, including a second and third quarter stretch where the defense allowed only seven total points.
“We are a very deep team,” Prairie Ridge coach Corky Card said. “We have about 15 kids that we can play, and its great when we can get at least 10 of them going. We played with speed and we stepped up the pressure tonight.”
Prairie Ridge guard Michael Bradshaw led all scorers with 14 points, including two baskets from behind the arc. Junior Steven Ticknor also was in double digits and added 12 points, including two from three-point range, as well.
Carmel 57, McHenry 51: McHenry coach Tim Paddock was pleased with his team’s performance despite the six-point loss to Carmel. The Warriors played tough against a Carmel team that has the luxury of having a 6-9 post player who can shoot along with the ability to dunk in Jack George, and a point guard who is a proven closer in Nickai Poyser.
“We still have a lot of inexperience out on the floor, but that is how you get better,” Paddock said. “We have played two really tough teams so far to open our season, but I have seen improvement already, game to game and we are starting to figure out our strengths.”
McHenry’s Greg Johnson had a game-high 16 points. Teammate Matt Perhats added nine while six others scored. Carmel was led by Poyser with 15 and George (13).
Crystal Lake Central 58, Hoffman Estates 48: Both teams feature a run-and-gun type of offense that hinges on the point guard being able to make plays, and Central’s Brad Knoeppel stepped up with a game-high 13 points and led the Tigers to a commanding victory in their home gym.
The Tigers took a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter and were able to use players who normally wouldn’t see a lot of minutes.
“It’s always great to get those guys in, especially from an experience standpoint,” Tigers coach Rich Czeslawski said.
The Tigers came off a disappointing loss to Carmel on Monday and worked on defense throughout the week and it paid off.
“We were really disappointed in how we defended on Monday,” Czeslawski said. “We spent the past two days really working on it and we stressed it coming in to tonight’s game because Hoffman likes to push the ball.”
The Tigers were led by Knoeppel and center David Panicko, who scored 13 and 12, respectively.