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Senior Amanze Egekeze surpassed 1,000 career points Saturday night, but Prairie Ridge denied Huntley’s bid to clinch a share of its fourth straight Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title with a 51-44 victory in Crystal Lake.
Prairie Ridge junior guard Payton Otto scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including a baseline jump shot with 3;01 to play that snapped a 39-39 tie and ignited a decisive 8-0 run.
“They were face guarding me the whole game and I didn’t really get any decent looks,” said Otto, who didn’t attempt a shot until he went 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter. “Later in the game we started crashing the boards harder and getting offensive boards, which got me open looks because my teammates can kick it out to me. I just knocked down the shots and it worked out for us.”
Huntley’s cold shooting touch during Prairie Ridge’s 8-0 run was the game in microcosm. The Red Raiders missed 4 straight shots in a 2:12 span, including a fast-break layup and three 3-point attempts. Overall, Huntley shot 14 of 44 from the field (32 percent), 5 of 22 from 3-point range and 10 of 19 from the free-throw line.
“It was the same story as the last couple of games,” Huntley coach Marty Manning said. “We missed 10 layups and shot 50 percent from the free throw line. We shot really poorly from outside. You can’t win games shooting that poorly.
“Defensively, we did a nice job. We must have taken 6 charges, which is the most we have had all year. But we need to score the easy points and we’re not doing that right now.”
The loss was the third straight for Huntley (15-7, 7-2) and second straight in the FVC Valley. It is the first time either has occurred since the 2009-10 season.
Huntley still owns a 1-game lead in the loss column over Cary-Grove (14-9, 7-3), which defeated McHenry 57-44 in a FVC Valley game Saturday after besting Huntley 51-48 on Friday.
“We just have to understand that we’re still in position to accomplish everything we want to, which is what coach talked to us about,” Egekeze said. “We’re still a game ahead. Right now we just have to buckle down. Every game counts right now. We have to fix some things. It seems like we’re starting to go back to our old habits: turnovers, missing layups and now free throws have really been killing us lately. We just have to buckle down and keep working on that.”
Prairie Ridge (15-10, 6-5) committed 15 turnovers to Huntley’s 10 and lost the rebounding battle 23-20, but the Wolves connected on 18 of 35 field-goal attempts (51 percent) and 4 of 8 3-pointers.
Entering the game needing 6 points for 1,000, Egekeze notched the milestone by converting a Prairie Ridge turnover into a fast-break layup with 6:02 left in the fourth quarter. The basket sparked the four-year varsity performer’s personal 6-0 run, which drew his team within a point of the lead.
However, the 6-foot-8 Belmont recruit was whistled for his fifth foul on a perimeter reach-in with 3:45 to play and was resigned to the bench with his 11 points and 7 rebounds. Egekeze shot 7 of 11 from the free throw line but only 2 of 10 from the field against a collapsing 2-3 zone.
“What do you do with a kid who is 6-8, that can drive, shoot the pull-up or play inside?” Prairie Ridge coach Corky Card asked. “We just tried to limit his touches, but then he can rebound. We just tried to make that kid scrap. He’s the best player in our conference.”
Egekeze reflected on the scoring milestone, which he achieved despite playing only 13 games as a junior while recovering from surgery.
“Obviously, it’s nice,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. I’ve come a long way and I’ve put a lot of work in. It’s an honor to have that achievement.
Michael Bradshaw sank a pair of 3-pointers en route to a 14-point performance and Steven Ticknor contributed 9 points and 6 rebounds for Prairie Ridge.
Huntley’s Zach Gorney sank a pair of 3-pointers and finished with a team-best 13 points.