CRYSTAL LAKE – The Huntley girls basketball team has become known for its ability to put up points, but it was their defense that shined during Tuesday's sectional semifinal against South Elgin.
A careless turnover leading to an easy basket right before halftime wasn’t the way the Red Raiders wanted to close what had been a solid first half. Despite the momentary lapse, Huntley's defense came alive in the second half.
The Red Raiders held the Storm scoreless for a seven-minute stretch in third quarter and allowed only three second-half field goals. Huntley's defensive effort led to a 49-32 win and put them in Thursday's Class 4A Crystal Lake South sectional final.
The Red Raiders (27-3), which set a school record for wins in a season, play Rockford Boylan at 7 p.m. Thursday for the sectional title.
“We talked about coming out in the second half and hunkering down and playing better team defense,” Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. “I think that was about one of our best halves of defense [in the second half] this whole season.”
Huntley senior forward Sam Andrews provided much-needed scoring with sophomore Ali Andrews nursing foul trouble most of the second half. Sam Andrews scored a game-high 21 points with three 3-pointers.
“I definitely look to take charge and lead the team, just get energy going and getting us to play like we know we can play,” Sam Andrews said. “I felt like once we stretched the defense we could start looking inside and get open shots.”
With Ali Andrews (15 points) limited in the second half because of foul trouble, freshman forward Morgan Clausen came off the bench and provided big minutes for the Red Raiders. Clausen helped Huntley protect its fourth-quarter lead by going 4 for 6 at the free throw line to their advantage to double digits.
South Elgin (20-10) took a 22-18 lead in the first 30 seconds of the third quarter, but failed to score again until 25 seconds were left in the third. By then, Huntley had built a 10-point lead. Midway through the fourth it had swelled to 18 points, 44-26.
Sam and Ali Andrews combined to score all of Huntley’s first-half points, with nine points each. The game was tied at 18 with 1:22 remaining in the second quarter on a Sam Andrews layup. The Storm stole the momentum heading in the halftime, however, converting a careless turnover by the Red Raiders under their own basket into a layup and South Elgin two-point lead as time expired.
South Elgin had a chance to get back into the game during the second half but couldn't capitalize on open looks, particularly on 3-pointers.
“We're a team that likes to press, and we didn't get as many turnovers as I would've liked to have," Storm coach Tim Prendergast said. "The 3-pointer is a big shot, and that killed us."