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The Huntley boys basketball players hate the tip drill, which coach Marty Manning still occasionally employs to open practices.
Manning gives his players one chance to avoid it: someone has to knock down a shot from midcourt.
Bryce Only, a four-year varsity player who has endured more tip drills than he probably cares to remember, is always quick to volunteer for the long-range shot, "but he never comes close," according to his coach.
Well, not until Tuesday's 58-42 victory at Cary-Grove, that is.
Huntley led by 3 points when Only grabbed a defensive rebound with 2 seconds left in the second quarter. He dribbled quickly to midcourt and launched a desperation heave. The ball banked in at the buzzer to give Huntley a 23-17 halftime lead.
"You just want to throw something up at the rim. Hopefully, you get a roll or something," said Only, who finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. "I threw it up and I was fortunate to hit it."
"Any momentum we had that half, they just took it," Cary-Grove coach Ralph Schuetzle said.
Huntley (12-6, 6-0) subsequently opened the second half on a 7-0 run to take a 13-point lead and complete control of the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division tilt. A putback by Amanze Egekeze, who led all scorers with 18 points, was followed by an inside bucket from Zach Gorney (8 points). Senior guard Jake Wagner's third 3-pointer of the evening capped his 11-point night and gave Huntley a 30-17 lead.
"I thought we played pretty well in the first half," Manning said. "We just didn't get to enough loose balls and we weren't pressuring as much as defensively as I wanted to. I thought we did a little better job of that at the start of the second half. Then we made some shots. Amanze played his best game so far.
In his fourth game since returning to the lineup from injury, Egekeze not only scored his season high but also grabbed 7 rebounds, dished 4 assists and blocked 2 shots. The blocked shots left Egekeze and his coach enthused about his progress. He had 1 blocked shot in his previous 4 games.
"It felt good to get a couple," Egekeze said. "I think it was just timing on my jumps, that's the biggest thing. Just getting my lift back underneath me when I'm on defense."
The victory ran Huntley's streak of consecutive wins within the FVC's Valley Division to 26, a streak dating back to Jan. 19, 2011.
"They're pretty darn good as far as the Fox Valley is concerned," Schuetzle said. "Defensively, they have a guy who can guard the ball, they have a guy who can guard the basket and they've got some wings who can really get after you. They're long and they're athletic and strong."
The Red Raiders will try to make it 27 straight next Tuesday when they host Prairie Ridge at 7 p.m.
"That streak isn't just this year," Only said. "It goes back to Dylan Neukirch and Tyler Brunschon, then last year with Troy Miller and Justin Frederick. You can't replace those guys. It means a lot to us and it definitely means a lot to them. They're definitely telling us to try to keep it going and we're going to try to keep it going."
Dean Lee led Cary-Grove (9-9, 1-4) with 12 points and 4 rebounds while Tyler Szydlo added 7 points. The Trojans next play at Dundee-Crown on Friday at 7 p.m.