On a bitter and cold night, Huntley's boys basketball team had trouble hanging onto the ball and dropped its opener to Wendell Phillips, 47-40, Monday night inside Chesbrough Field House at the 39th annual Elgin Holiday Tournament.
Despite leading at half by one point, the Red Raiders (5-4) were held to just 4 points in the second and turned the ball over on five straight possessions to open the second and four straight in the third.
"We had too many turnovers from seniors, and that's why we lost the game," Huntley coach Marty Manning said. "We basically fumbled the ball right into their hands and gave them easy baskets."
With so many turnovers, 22 for the game and 20 after the first quarter, Huntley was unable to get the ball inside to its low post players, most notably Amanze Egekeze, who was by far the tallest player on the court.
When he did have the ball, Egekeze was one of the most consistent scoring options on the court for the Red Raiders, finishing with a team-high 13 points and 6 rebounds.
"One of the things we talked about was that they didn't have a player over 6-2 and we'd love to get the ball inside to Amanze., Manning said. "But we don't have any guards that can do that."
The other bright spot on offense came by way of freshman Jack Bessey, who finished with 12 points on the night including 2 3-pointers in the third to get Huntley back within two. The youngster was able to hit every shot he took from the field except for a last chance 3-pointer that was blocked. For Manning, Bessey was one of the standouts on the court, despite some turnovers of his own, along with Egekeze and senior Blake Jacobs, who finished with just 3 points but was able to move the ball around.
"He's settling in really nice with us," Manning said of Bessey. "We've got great teammates around him. Jack is a really nice kid so it's easy for them to all get along."
For Phillips, the pressure and havoc the Wildcats were able to create helped them kick start a slow offense. Charlie Harlan drained 6 3-pointers, 5 in the second half alone, to lead all scorers with 20 points and was able to make a pair of free-throws to ice the game at the end.
In the end for Huntley, the defensive pressure that Phillips put on was too much, but Manning knows what his team is capable of.
"We've played quick teams and we've played quick teams, we just had guys that were not prepared to play mentally and it showed physically with the turnovers," he said.
Huntley will play Francis Parker at 1:45 p.m. Thursday in the loser's bracket.