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Huntley sophomore Amanze Egekeze was cold and Crystal Lake Central was hot in the first quarter of Friday night's Jacobs Boys Holiday Basketball Classic championship game.
Then the outlook changed in the second quarter for the Red Raiders as Egekeze was heating up as the Tigers were cooling off before a spirited crowd at the Eagles' Nest in Algonquin.
The 6-foot-6 Egekeze scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the final 7:05 of the first half and Huntley took a lead it never lost en route to a 55-49 victory and its first Jacobs tourney title.
"It felt like every shot was going to go in and they did," Egekeze said after making 6 of 7 second-quarter attempts from the field en route to 10-for-17 overall. "I knew I had to have a good game like this if we were going to win. I had struggled the whole tournament."
As a result, Egekeze wasn't on the 15-player all-tournament team with teammates Troy Miller and Bryce Only. But he helped Huntley (10-1) avenge a title -game loss to Mundelein last year and hand Fox Valley Conference rival Crystal Lake Central (11-1) its first loss.
"It's been our No. 1 goal," said Huntley senior Justin Frederick, who provided 8 points, 6 rebounds and some key hustle plays. "We knew we had a good team this year and Crystal Lake Central had a great team."
And the Tigers, who won the Jacobs tourney in 2004, looked it by taking a 17-9 lead in the opening 6:15 as junior all-tourney pick Corban Murphy scored 8 points. Huntley committed 5 turnovers and Egekeze missed 3 of his first 4 shots.
But Crystal Lake Central managed just 19 points in the next 21 minutes. Frederick helped limit Murphy to 1 point the rest of the way and Only (11 points, 6 rebounds) held dangerous guard Chase Cane to 11 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
"They have pretty good shooters but we felt we could pressure them a little bit and force turnovers," Egekeze said of Central's 15 miscues.
"I kept trying to implore our team to get out and pressure," said Huntley coach Marty Manning. "I told Rich (Central coach Czeslawski) before the game it seems like we play three or four games where teams come out on fire in the first quarter.
"It's a credit to them because they are very good shooters but I also don't think we defended the way we're capable of defending."
Huntley made it a point to go inside to Egekeze after 6-7 Central junior Kyle Fleck went out with two fouls midway through the first quarter.
A 360-degree spinning drive started Egekeze's second-quarter outburst and Huntley went ahead to stay at 26-23 on a 3 by Miller (13 points) with 1:58 left in the half.
"We started to work the ball inside and played an inside-out game instead of outside-in," Frederick said as Huntley committed no second-quarter turnovers and only four after halftime.
"We started to realize after I made the first couple of baskets that we had a mismatch in the post," Egekeze said. "My shot was falling tonight and our offense got rolling after that."
A 3-point play by Nick Marchetti (14 points) got Central within 44-39 with 4:45 left. Egekeze's jump hook started an 11-4 burst for a 55-43 lead with 1:08 to play.
"They were much more fundamental than we were tonight," Czeslawski said, "and we didn't have an answer for Amanze.
"Defensively they're outstanding but we did not execute very well offensively tonight."