Neuqua Valley kicked off the Upstate Eight Valley portion of its season in convincing fashion at District 204 rival Metea Valley.
The Wildcats surged ahead on the strength of an 18-0 run that started with 1:30 left in the second quarter and ended at the 2:37 mark of the third quarter.
The Mustangs were held without a field goal for nearly eight minutes during that stretch, all leading to a 66-51 Neuqua Valley win Thursday night.
"After we made the run at the end of the second quarter, we wanted to keep it going into the third quarter," Neuqua Valley junior guard Demond George said. "We packed it in and made sure (Metea Valley) didn't drive through the lane, which they like to do, and we played good team defense."
For Neuqua coach Todd Sutton, it wasn't about making any halftime adjustments to keep the momentum going, but the Wildcats' playmaking abilities.
"Everything we talked about at halftime didn't happen," Sutton said. "We wanted to make adjustments and we didn't need any of them. The kids made plays. It wasn't about adjustments or execution. They just made plays."
A layup by Metea Valley's Mark Konkle gave the Mustangs a 30-24 lead with just less than two minutes left before halftime, but George and Elijah Robertson combined for 6 of the Wildcats' final 8 points during a 45-second span, giving their team a 32-30 halftime lead.
The Wildcats (3-2, 1-0) carried the momentum into the second half, as Robertson scored inside on a pass from George to open the third quarter scoring. George followed with a fastbreak floater in the lane, giving his team a 36-30 lead with just 31 seconds of third-quarter play elapsed.
"We didn't respond well from that second-quarter run," Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza said. "The first few possessions of the third quarter, it didn't look like we were ready to go. (Neuqua Valley) went to a matchup zone and we stopped hitting our shots."
Metea Valley (2-3, 0-1) ended the Neuqua Valley run with 2:37 left in the third when Marquell Oliver split a pair of free throws.
Oliver's running lay-in with 1:41 left ended the Mustangs' nearly eight-minute field-goal drought.
Metea Valley trimmed the deficit to 53-46, but George scored the Wildcats' next 6 points all on drives through the lane.
The Mustangs were also hurt by a 12-for-26 effort from the free-throw line.
"Free throws killed us all night," Vozza said. "It's been an issue. I thought we consistently got better last week, but the bug came back tonight."