Neuqua Valley's Jabari Sandifer, he's the man.
"He's one of the best point guards I've seen in a long time around here," Waubonsie Valley coach Steve Weemer said Friday. "He's got the keys to (coach Todd Sutton's) car and he does a heck of a job driving it."
The Western Illinois-bound senior scored a game-high 23 points with four 3-point baskets. But being a team game, Neuqua maybe doesn't claim a 50-47 Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division win in south Naperville without huge plays from Wildcats like Connor Raridon and Brad Mikulecky.
After 17 lead changes and 3 ties Raridon gained space from his defender to swish a 3-pointer from the right. The shot, made possible by Elijah Robertson's offensive rebound, gave Neuqua the lead for good, 45-43 with 1:18 left to play. It was Raridon's sole basket.
"Guys who had confidence in me on my team to step up and take the shot was what really helped me," said Raridon, a 6-foot-4 sophomore.
Mikulecky got his first start Friday and helped limit Waubonsie Valley star guard Jared Brownridge to 6 points through three quarters. The Santa Clara recruit scored 7 in the fourth, including a 3 to pull within 48-47 with 13.6 seconds left.
Sandifer free throws gave Neuqua the 50-47 edge with 9.9 left, then Mikulecky got a steal and Sutton took time with 2.6 seconds left.
"I just went for the ball and I ended up getting it. Lucky enough, the ball bounced my way and I grabbed it," Mikulecky said.
Neuqua (16-1, 7-1) turned back over the inbounds pass, giving Waubonsie one more try. Brownridge missed a half-court 3 as Mikulecky whizzed by.
"I called it earlier, it's coming down to the last possession of the game," said Sutton, whose squad evened the District 204 rivalry 14-14. "Nothing unusual. It's whoever makes an extra play will win the game."
Along with an early Brownridge 3, Waubonsie's Bryan Jefferson and Javares Stewart made plays in the paint for a 14-6 Warriors lead after the first quarter, up 17-8 at 5:45 of the second.
Neuqua closed the first half with 10 straight points on 2 Sandifer 3s, a Pat Kenny putback and a Sandifer steal and layup.
"I was missing my shot earlier, but I'm a shooter so I kept shooting," Sandifer said.
Weemer said a "stale" second quarter was where Waubonsie (13-7, 4-4) lost the game. Jefferson, whose 22 points led the Warriors, weighed in.
"I don't think we were going to the basket as much as we should have, because it worked for us in the first quarter," the 6-7 senior said. "I think we should have continued to do that, but we didn't."