There were flashes of greatness on each side during Saturday's key Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division boys basketball game between Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley.
For the host Warriors, star Jared Brownridge gave the fans in attendance a glimpse of just how good a basketball player he can be. But for the visiting Wildcats, great effort, great team play and some pretty impressive depth paved the way to a 59-46 win that keeps Neuqua Valley unbeaten on the year at 6-0 and more importantly 2-0 in league action with a win now over the preseason favored Warriors.
Brownridge could not get his shots to fall early and the Wildcats used a 19-8 run in the second quarter for a 34-19 lead at the half and a seemingly comfortable 45-32 lead after three quarters. But Brownridge, who led all scorers with 26 points, scored 12 straight Waubonsie points during a 12-2 charge that closed the gap to 49-44 with 5:38 left to play before Neuqua regrouped and finished the victory.
"We knew they were so darn good that they'd make a big run and they did," Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said. "We just needed a couple plays to quiet that run or it was gonna be ugly. And the guys made a couple nice plays."
While Brownridge may have been the best player on the floor, Neuqua Valley was the best team. Center Pat Kenny quietly made 7 of 8 shots to finish with 15 points, while Zach Pugh and Elijah Robertson provided huge sparks off the bench.
"We've been playing real good defense and playing hard," Kenny said. "We knew Jared's a great player and that Bryan (Jefferson) is a real good player, but we prepared for them really well in practice and came out and executed."
The Warriors weren't prepared for the likes of Pugh and Robertson to attack the glass so well. The two combined for 8 offensive rebounds in the second half as the visitors used three- and four-shot trips down the floor to stay in control. Robertson tallied 10 points and had 8 rebounds and a steal that he converted into a dunk in the third quarter. Pugh added 5 points, 5 rebounds and a blocked shot.
"I told our kids tonight three words: toughness, effort and then rebounding," Waubonsie Valley coach Steve Weemer said. "They outtoughed us and they embarrassed us on the boards tonight. That comes down to effort, so I'm really disappointed in our team, but that's something I will fix."
The Warriors limited Wildcats star Jabari Sandifer to just one field goal and 6 points, but Neuqua managed just fine as three players scored in double figures and eight players scored. Josh Piotrowski hit a clutch 3 in the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points to join Kenny and Robertson in double figures.
For the Warriors, Brownridge had a tough shooting night but still tallied more than half of his team's points. Jefferson, who was slowed by foul trouble, added 10 points.
"We can't stop Jared," said Sutton, who did admit to being thrilled with his team's defensive effort. "He's first-team all-stater and we know how good he is. He showed everyone during that little stretch just how good he is."
But Weemer knows Brownridge's teammates need to contribute more than they did.
"We can not rely on one guy to carry us," the Warriors coach said. "If we're going to compete with Neuqua as good as they're playing we need other guys to step up and knock down shots."