All of the early signs pointed to a nice and relaxing Friday night for Huntley's boys basketball team before a big home crowd.
All five starters contributed to the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division leaders scoring 14 of the first 16 points in the opening 4 ˝ minutes. And visiting McHenry didn't have 16-point average and top 3-point threat Shane Varvil to help make up the deficit because of an injured right foot.
But relaxing made for a nerve-racking finish for the Red Raiders. They scored 9 of the last 11 points for a victorious 42-35 ending that wasn't as happy as they originally envisioned.
"We know if we had handled correctly what we were supposed to the game should have been a totally different outcome," said Huntley senior Bryce Only, who had 10 points and 8 rebounds. "We didn't finish at the rim, pass the ball well or shoot free throws. We took a step backward tonight."
But the Red Raiders (14-6, 8-0) won for the 10th time in 11 games and stayed two games ahead of Dundee-Crown in the FVC Valley as Tommy Regan found Only with a long pass behind the Warriors' (9-11, 2-6) full-court pressure for a driving 3-point play and 40-35 lead with 30 seconds to play.
McHenry had just cut the deficit to 37-35 on 2 free throws by Ryan Skinner but missed its final 9 shots from the field to finish at 28.6 percent (12-for-42). Seven were beyond the arc (6-for-21) overall without Varvil, who was injured in practice Thursday but should only miss a couple of weeks since it wasn't broken, according to coach Tim Paddock.
"We had good looks down the stretch, but we just couldn't get one to go in the hole," Paddock said of his team which lost its first meeting to Huntley 45-41. "If we could have, we would have been in there (locker room) throwing water all over each other and celebrating. From a toughness and mental aspect, I'm really proud of them."
Huntley hit 6 of its first 8 shots and led 14-2 after a jumper by Zach Gorney (8 points, 10 rebounds). McHenry went to a 2-3 point matchup zone the rest of the way and got within 16-14 as Korey Partenheimer hit two of his three 3-pointers and scored 12 of his game-high 15 points.
"There's no explanation for that," Only said. "We as a team know we need to stay up because anything can happen in high school basketball. There's no reason every single play shouldn't be 100 percent."
Especially with McHenry's ability to hit the 3 as Partenheimer, Cody Freund, Greg Johnson and Damian Zalewski all connected in the second half to lead to a tie at 33-33 with 7:04 left. But 6-foot-7 junior Amanze Egekeze (13 points, 5 rebounds) answered with a 14-foot jumper at 5:44 and 2 free throws at 3:05 to put Huntley ahead to stay.
Huntley shot just 4-for-21 in the second half to finish at 30.2 percent (13-for-43) and was 13-for-21 on free throws.
"We were just soft finishing around the basket and that's been kind of a problem for us throughout the year," said Huntley coach Marty Manning. "I was happy with our defensive effort but I wish we could do a little better on offense so our games aren't in the 30s and 40s all the time."