Forced into survival mode after squandering a 17-point second-half lead, Huntley's girls basketball team found its comfort zone at the free-throw line Saturday afternoon in Lombard.
Knocking down 23 of their 25 free throws -- including 15 of 16 in the fourth quarter -- the Red Raiders (13-3) held off a resilient Batavia (11-5) team to pull out a 63-55 victory in the seventh-place game of the Montini Catholic Christmas Tournament.
Sam Andrews, Kayla Barreto, Ali Andrews and Rachel Zobott combined to make 15 free throws over the last five minutes as the Red Raiders finished the rugged tournament with a 2-2 record.
"We did a great job of knocking down free throws," said Huntley coach Steve Raethz. "They all stepped up and knocked down free throws. That was huge for us."
Led by Sam Andrews (23 points, 11 rebounds) and sophomore sister Ali Andrews (23 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocked shots), the Red Raiders extended their 34-24 halftime advantage to a 45-28 bulge with 2:38 left in the third quarter.
Playing its 10th game in 17 days, Batavia showed its mettle while scoring 14 unanswered points to cut the deficit to 45-42 with 6:41 remaining.
After Ali Andrews drained her third 3-pointer from the top of the key, the Bulldogs just kept coming.
A steal and layup by senior guard Liza Fruendt followed by a clutch 3-pointer from Jessica Koch made it 48-47 and a few moments later Fruendt sank a pair of free throws to tie the game at 49-49 with 4:12 remaining.
"I've got to give the kids a ton of credit for coming back," said Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen. "It was our 10th game in about 2½ weeks. We could have let things get out of hand very quickly. There were a few things I wasn't happy with in the first half but we came out and I still think our effort can match up with anybody. I've got to be happy with that."
Batavia relied on full-court defensive pressure during its rally, as Fruendt (23 points, 7 steals) capped the third quarter with a personal 8-0 run that included a 3-point play off a steal and layup, 2 free throws and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
The Missouri State-bound guard also began the fourth quarter with a steal and layup.
"When we play our best, we convert turnovers real easily," said Fruendt, who scored 91 points in 4 tourney games. "We had a lot of ups and downs today which come when you're tired."
"Batavia did a great job of coming back," said Raethz. "They amped up their pressure defensively and forced us into some turnovers. For a little stretch there, we lost our composure but I give our kids credit. They did a great job of coming back and finding ways to score down the stretch and most importantly coming up with some stops when we needed to."
Zobott chipped in with 8 points for Huntley, which recovered from back-to-back losses to Marian Catholic and Fremd.
"I was pleased to walk out of here with a win," said Raethz. "It's a great experience to be able to play against top-level competition like this for four games."
Erin Bayram scored 12 points and had 5 blocked shots while Koch added 8 points for the Bulldogs.
"We won our first game and lost our next three but I can't say we played bad in any of those games," said Jensen.