Huntley boys basketball coach Marty Manning, guard Troy Miller and center Amanze Egekeze all came to a consensus as to the saving grace in Friday's game.
Defense. Defense. Defense.
When the Red Raiders' offense scored just 4 points in the fourth quarter of the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division game at McHenry, the defense allowed just 2 points.
The defense proved good enough to hang on for a 34-29 victory.
Huntley (19-2, 8-0) did not give up a basket during the game's final 5 minutes, 30 seconds allowing just 2 shots during that time. The final shot was a heavily-contested 3-point attempt from Jeff Nicholls with 2 seconds left to play.
"Our defense was here again today, but our offense was lacking," said Miller, who finished with 8 points.
Miller did take part in Huntley's offensive highlight when he found Egekeze wide open under the basket for an easy layup with 19 seconds left to secure Huntley's lead.
Huntley guard Jake Brock bobbled the ball, which came back to Miller in the backcourt. McHenry crashed in on Miller, who was then able to find Egekeze (10 points) for the basket.
The basket came 6 minutes, 13 seconds after Justin Frederick scored to make it 32-27 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. McHenry (8-11, 3-5) answered back to come within 32-29, but neither team was able to do much after that.
The Warriors attempted to foul when Huntley was running the clock down in the fourth quarter, but never did send the Red Raiders to the free-throw line until Bryce Only was fouled after grabbing the rebound from Nicholls' miss.
Huntley forced 4 Warriors' turnovers in the fourth quarter, but committed 5 of its own.
"It's been the case all year, we play great on the defensive end and horrible on the offensive end," Manning said. "We came out with a lack of execution on offense. It's really discouraging."
McHenry's defensive focus was clearly on Egekeze, who scored just 2 points in the first half. He was able to score 6 of the Red Raiders' 10 third-quarter points, including slamming down a dunk off a pass from Ryan Craig to put Huntley up 30-25 with 35 seconds left in the third period.
The dunk was set up on the defensive end when Egekeze notched one of his 3 blocked shots in the game on McHenry's Andrew Reisinger.
On the previous play he got a steal and ran the length of the floor to score on a layup cushioning a 26-25 lead. Egekeze recognizes the importance of trying to find as many ways to contribute when he is limited on the offensive end of the floor.
"That's been the case the last half of the season," Egekeze said. "I try to help the team in other ways. With the blocks, it limits the scoring in the paint. They had two good guys in the post and we were able to neutralize them."