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The Elgin boys basketball team picked an awfully good time to play its best defensive quarter of the season.
And Maroons' senior Kory Brown picked an even better time -- and on a big stage as well -- to prove he's worthy of heavier Division I recruiting than he's been getting.
The 6-foot-4 Brown tied his career high of 30 points and No. 1 Elgin held No. 5 Huntley to just 3 free throws in the third quarter as the Maroons came away a 58-44 winner Saturday at the 15th Annual National Guard High School Hoops Showdown at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates.
"Our third-quarter defense was one of the best quarters of defense we've played all year," said Elgin coach Mike Sitter. "I'd like to think we have some high IQs on this team. We made some adjustments at halftime. Some the coaches made, and some the kids made on the floor."
After opening up as much as a 9-point lead at 22-13 early in the second quarter, Elgin (16-1) allowed Huntley back in the game, even surrendering the lead to the Red Raiders (15-2) twice late in the quarter, the last time coming on Troy Miller's basket with 43 seconds left that gave Huntley a 28-26 lead. But Elgin came back with 2 free throws from Brown, who was 8-for-8 at the line for the game, and a pull-up jumper from senior Cortez Scott to take a 31-28 lead into the break.
The Maroons then held Huntley scoreless for the first 4 minutes, 55 seconds of the third quarter and went on a 7-0 run to establish a 38-28 lead after 2 free throws from junior Arie Williams with 4:15 left in the quarter. Huntley would get no closer than 8 points the rest of the way.
"Going into the second half we played strong and smart," said Brown. "We didn't allow (Huntley) to get the offensive rebounds they got in the first half."
The Red Raiders were 0-for-9 shooting in the third quarter, just 4 of 21 in the second half and didn't make a basket until sophomore Amanze Egekeze put back a Bryce Only miss with 5:52 left in the game.
"I thought at first we had four or five really good shots and didn't knock them down," said Huntley coach Marty Manning of his team's third-quarter woes. "Then we started to press a little and their defense was really good. They forced us to turn the ball over and they took some charges. I was hoping we'd play better but it only concerns me if we don't get better."
For Brown it was a stellar all-around effort. He was 8-for-11 shooting, including hitting 2 3-pointers, and he had 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals.
"I think Kory is the most underrated player in the state of Illinois," said Sitter, whose team finished 18 of 34 shooting and turned the ball over only five times all night. "I know I'm selfish, but there's no reason he shouldn't be recruited at a higher level."
To Brown, though, it's all about the team.
"I didn't realize it was that many," he said when told he had 30 points. "I shared the ball a lot and my teammates got the ball to me. I play defense to my fullest and in the first half I wasn't right. The mindset was better in the second half."
Williams added 18 points and 3 assists for the Maroons, who avenged a sectional semifinal loss to Huntley last season.
"Stay humble and stay hungry," said Williams, who knocked down 9 of 12 free-throw attempts. "It was a big game for us."
Huntley, which was 17 of 43 shooting, was led by 11 points each from Egekeze and Justin Frederick. Only added 8 and Miller 7.
"We didn't play up to our expectations," said Miller. "We kind of got flustered."