Created:Thursday, March 14, 2013 12:08 a.m.CDT
Updated:Thursday, March 14, 2013 12:10 a.m.CDT
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Huntley's Sam Andrews Girls Basketball Player of the Year

Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Huntley's forward Sam Andrews poses for a portrait at Huntley High School on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. Andrews is the Northwest Herald girls basketball Player of the Year after helping led the Red Raiders to a fourth-place finish in Class 4A, the best season in school season. (Sarah Nader)

Sam Andrews saw her opportunity as she scanned Wheaton Warrenville South’s defense.

The Huntley junior forward watched Wheaton Warrenville South settle into a 2-3 zone defense and searched for an open spot along the perimeter. It was the perfect matchup for a player with Andrews’ skill set, a versatile forward capable of knocking down 3-pointers. Except that night, in a Class 4A supersectional with a spot in the state semifinals at stake, Andrews’ first two 3-point attempts clanked off the rim.

The misses didn’t faze Andrews. She kept firing and made four 3-pointers through the first three quarters, and her 17th free throw – with 11 seconds remaining – sealed the Red Raiders’ win. It was the type of performance the Red Raiders had come to expect from Andrews. When it mattered most, Andrews came through for Huntley.

“The first shots [in the supersectional] I don’t remember, but I know they didn’t go in,” Andrews said with a laugh. “They were probably bad shots or rushed. But the next shots I took, it’s just confidence from practice. Yeah, I missed the first ones, but I have the confidence to keep shooting because I have the practice to back me up.”

Andrews, who averaged 15.7 points a game, scored in double figures in 31 of Huntley’s 34 games and led the Red Raiders in scoring during their regional final, sectional final and supersectional wins.

For her performance this season and leading the Red Raiders to a program-best fourth-place finish in Class 4A, Andrews is the Northwest Herald Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

“You know what you’re going to get out of her game in and game out,” Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. “What she did in that Wheaton Warrenville South game, with stepping up and hitting some huge 3s in really key moments in order to maintain or extend leads, was a really big thing for us. But an all-around great season for her.”

Andrews’ consistency didn’t develop overnight. During the offseason, Andrews spent at least 11/2 to 2 hours every day, whether it was on the driveway at her family’s home in Lake in the Hills or the Health Bridge Fitness Center 10 minutes from the high school, working on her shot – on top of the weekly travel practices and speed and agility workouts. That dedication led to her more than doubling the 24 3-pointers she made her sophomore year as she finished with 52 3-pointers, second-most in the area.

Andrews, who averaged 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game, is more than just a great outside shooter. She has developed a knack for getting to the basket, using her 6-foot frame to battle in the paint and get to the free-throw line.

And if Andrews didn’t convert in the lane, she often punished any opponent who believed fouling her was the better option.

She attempted 165 free throws and made 81.8 percent, making 14 more than any other area player.

“She just did a great job of taking on the load offensively,” Raethz said. “She’s a model of consistency. Her offensive output coupled with her work ethic makes her such a dual threat offensively.”

Andrews already has scored 955 career points in two varsity seasons, and she is on track to become only the third player in program history to eclipse 1,000 points. Andrews’ modesty and quiet confidence earned praised and respect from her Huntley teammates.

“I’d like to be a leader like she is,” freshman forward Ali Andrews said of her sister. “Even though she’s not always vocal, she always encourages you on the court.”

Despite her personal success amid Huntley’s remarkable year, Andrews isn’t settling after what she deemed a “good” individual season. Improving her ball handling is one of Andrews’ top offseason priorities.

“I just know that when I step on the court it’s obviously about having fun, too, but you need to get your job done,” Andrews said. “You know what you’re out there for. It’s about being the best you can be for your team.”