Venturing to the free-throw line was rarely a foul trip for Huntley on Friday night.
The Red Raiders displayed how their emphasis on uncontested 15-footers in practice led to near-perfect results in their Fox Valley Conference Valley Division girls basketball showdown at Prairie Ridge. They connected on 21 of 23 attempts as they pulled away to a 44-28 victory in Crystal Lake.
"Making free throws gives you confidence," said Huntley senior Haley Ream, who made all 4 of her tries and had 8 points and 10 rebounds. "I think free throws are easier because no one is on you."
Huntley (8-2, 2-0), which shoots between 75 and 80 percent according to coach Steve Raethz, made all 10 of its free throws en route to a 19-6 lead 1:11 before halftime. It also used free throws for the last half of a clinching 12-0 run for a 44-26 lead with 3:44 to play.
"As a team we should be hitting our free throws," said Huntley junior Sam Andrews after she went 8-for-9 en route to a game-high 11 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. "They're easy points ... and basically part of our offense is driving and trying to get fouled. We're all pretty good free-throw shooters."
Ali Andrews (10 points, 5 rebounds) went 4-for-4, Bethany Zornow was 3-for-4 and freshman point guard Kayla Barreto (7 points) made both of her attempts. Huntley needed them as it shot just 30.3 percent from the field (10-for-33) and was 3-for-17 behind the 3-point line.
"More important, the kids did a great job on the defensive end tonight," Raethz said after Prairie Ridge shot 18.8 percent (9-for-48) and 1-for-7 from the arc. "Our kids responded in the second half when they went on a little run at us in the third quarter."
A technical on Raethz was part of a 12-point run that bridged halftime and got PR (6-3, 0-2) within 19-18. But reserve guard Amanda Kaniewski's 3 with eight seconds left in the third capped a 13-4 Huntley burst.
PR got within 32-26 on Maddie Drain's layup 14 seconds into the fourth quarter. Huntley responded as Ream hit a baseline jumper, Barreto had a steal and layup and Ali Andrews hit a turnaround jumper.
"I thought they showed a lot of poise and a lot of composure," Raethz said of the various defenses the Red Raiders saw from PR, including a box-and-one and triangle-and-two on the Andrews sisters.
"We handled their pressure really well, slowed down and ran our half-court offense," Ream said after helping Huntley turn a 17-11 rebound deficit at halftime into a 26-25 advantage for the game.
"Collectively as a team we just stuck together," Sam Andrews said. "I feel it was one of our best games defensively. We played really well as a team tonight."