Former Hoffman Estates coach and current Huntley assistant Bill Wandro joked that Huntley head coach Marty Manning was a bit of a worrywart all week.
But Manning had good reason to worry about his team's five-game win streak and spotless conference record in McHenry Tuesday night, since the Warriors had knocked off Crystal Lake South at home on Jan 10. And in Manning's tenure, Huntley had never won by double digits in the McHenry West gym.
"It's always a tight game," Manning said. "(McHenry) always plays with so much energy, they seem to shoot the ball extremely well on their home floor."
Except this time all the worry went for naught after the Red Raiders (11-4) came away with a 61-41 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division blowout for their sixth-straight win, a perfect (4-0) conference record and a sigh of relief for Manning, who can knock off the double-digit win in McHenry off his bucket list.
"The outcome was something I was not expecting," Manning said. "I think our guys bought into the fact that they were going to have to play at a high level to beat them on their home floor."
Behind a game-high 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists from Amanze Egekeze and 18 points from Zach Gorney the Red Raiders were poised and ready to break any sort of defense thrown at them.
"We tried everything we had, we tried everything we could do and they just made plays," McHenry coach Tim Paddock said. "(Egekeze) passes well out of the doubles and they hit some tough shots and when they play like that they're going to be tough to beat by anybody in our conference."
But Huntley is buying into so much more during this stretch of 9 wins in 10 games. They Raiders are learning their roles after teams routinely throw everything but the kitchen sink at Egekeze and company. It is "an accumulation of knowledge over our previous 14 games," Manning stated. "Teams have played zones, teams have trapped us and we're starting to get better."
After Egekeze scored 8 points in the first quarter on a putback, a fadeaway, a faceup and a dunk, McHenry's defense zoned up. With the Warriors collapsing on the Belmont-bound center, Gorney began to cut in the open lane and good passing led to 24 points in the paint overall and Gorney's last basket in the second quarter off an Egekeze touch pass off a ball he caught in midair gave Huntley a 29-17 lead with 2:45 left in the first half.
"We always have a point of emphasis to get the ball down low," said Gorney, who scored 8 points in the second quarter, when Huntley outscored McHenry 20-14. "They were double teaming Amanze in the high post and Amanze made some nice passes when I was cutting baseline."
Huntley shot a sizzling 58.9 percent from the field and held McHenry to just 4 points in the fourth quarter. The Red Raiders also forced McHenry (8-8, 1-3) into 17 turnovers and scored 9 points off those mishaps. Kyle Slonka (6 points) hit 2 3-pointers when Huntley's interior differed to the perimeter and by the time the fourth quarter hit, the lead kept expanding.
"Everyone is starting to play with a lot of confidence and we're making shots and when we make shots like that you can take everything away," Egekeze said. "That's one thing coach has been trying to preach to us that defense can do that, but if they pack it in like that we got shooters ready to shoot."