Two big 3-pointers made the difference in Neuqua Valley advancing to the regional final.
Sam Johnson and Jabari Sandifer knocked down a pair of crucial fourth quarter 3-point baskets that made the difference in the Wildcats' 52-43 win over Bolingbrook in the semifinal round of the Class 4A Bolingbrook regional Wednesday night.
Neuqua Valley (22-7) advances to Friday's regional final where it will face East Aurora at 7:30 p.m.
"We didn't think Jabari was going to shoot, but he came off of a nice dagger screen and was the second option on that play," Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said. "And Sam is Sam. He always makes those plays. He had a 21-point quarter the last time we played here. I think he likes this gym."
After a 3-point play by Bolingbrook (9-18) cut the Neuqua Valley lead to 38-35 with just under six minutes to play, Sandifer and Johnson came through with each of their 3s to extend the lead to 44-35 and essentially put the game out of reach.
"Jabari came down and hit a big three and then I got an open look," Johnson said. That helped out a lot. From then on, I thought we had a pretty good handle on the game."
Bolingbrook would not go quietly for the better part of three-and-a-half quarters. Neuqua Valley used an 11-0 run during the first and second quarters to go up 19-8. However, the Raiders held the Wildcats to just one field goal in the second quarter, a 3-point basket by Johnson.
Bolingbrook trimmed the Neuqua Valley lead to five at halftime and got as close as three in the third quarter. However, the Wildcats would use the 3-pointer to keep their opponent at a distance.
After the Raiders' LaTree Russell's 3 trimmed the Neuqua Valley lead to 29-26, Ryan McDermott came through with two straight baseline 3s of his own, which eventually led to a 35-30 Wildcat lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Johnson's and Sandifer's baskets extended the Neuqua Valley advantage, but Bolingbrook's Dan Fisher hit the last field goal of the night on a 3-pointer, making the score 45-40 with 1:35 to play. That was as close as the Raiders would get.
"It's never easy to lose especially with a group like this," Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. "I'm very proud of our kids and the way they performed tonight."