BELVIDERE – Huntley players knew Friday night’s game against Jefferson would not be a usual regional championship game, but the mindset was still the same. The Red Raiders overpowered Jefferson, 77-29, for their third regional boys basketball title in four years.
After winning the Class 4A Belvidere North Regional final, Huntley will play Rockford Auburn in an Elgin Sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Jefferson was without its head coach, three starters, and seven total players because of suspension after a fight broke out Tuesday in the postgame handshake line of their semifinal game against Rockford East.
“We weren’t exactly sure what the situation for them was,” Huntley coach Marty Manning said after the game. “We knew, after last year, that we could take nothing for granted, and I think our guys held their focus well tonight.”
The result was noticeable right away Friday night. The Red Raiders jumped out to a 15-0 lead and led at the end of the first quarter, 26-5.
“We approached this game as if it were any other game,” Huntley’s Amanze Egekeze said. “We had a job to do, so it doesn’t matter who is on the court against us. We are going to play hard, and play our game.”
Egekeze led Huntley with a game-high 21 points, including shooting 9 of 9 from the foul line. Seniors Riley Wicks and Zach Gorney contributed 14 and 11 points, respectively.
“After last year, we wanted to make sure we finished this one off,” Gorney said. “We have been playing well, and, hopefully, we can keep this momentum going to the sectional and further.”
Huntley was eliminated last year in the first round of the regional by Rockford East, marking the only time this Red Raiders senior class has not won a regional title.
“This one is special,” Egekeze said. “We didn’t want to go out how the seniors went out last year.” Huntley was able to get scoring contributions from 13 players, emptying its bench midway through the third quarter.
“Those guys don’t get enough credit for our success,” Egekeze said. “Those guys bust it in practice to make us better, and it’s an awesome feeling for them to get in and score.”
Although postgame was all celebrations for the Red Raiders, they know their job is not complete, and they go back to work Saturday.
“I want the boys to enjoy this one tonight,” Manning said. “One of our goals was to win a regional, and we accomplished that. We have practice [Saturday] to get ready for a tough team in the sectional.”