2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 2/19/2014 11:33 PM

Neuqua Valley roars past Joliet West

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By Mike Krizman
Daily Herald Correspondent

Neuqua Valley stepped on the gas pedal in the final three quarters of its Class 4A regional opener and never looked back.

The No. 1-seeded Wildcats, facing the 16th-seeded Joliet West Tigers in the semifinal round of the Class 4A Plainfield South regional, forced their opponents into 10 first-quarter turnovers but only held a 15-13 lead after the first eight minutes.

But the Tigers were held to just 20 points the rest of the way as the Wildcats' forced 26 Joliet West turnovers on the night, leading to a 77-33 victory on Wednesday.

Neuqua Valley (25-5) advances to Friday's regional final and will face eighth-seeded Oswego East.

"It was good for us to have an awakening," Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams said. "Just because we're the No. 1 seed doesn't mean that (opponents) are going to lie down. That's what we'll take away from this game."

Joliet West's Monica Barefield tied the game 13-13 on a baseline 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the first quarter, but Najee Smith put the Wildcats up for good on a pair of free throws after she was fouled at the buzzer.

Smith's free throws started a 19-1 Wildcats run that built their lead to 32-14.

Barefield connected on a 3-pointer just before halftime, ending an eight-minute field goal drought for the Tigers.

"The team listened and responded well in the second quarter," Williams said. "We played great defense and got things going."

Jasmine Hawkins' drive and layup with 5:30 to go in the third quarter would be Joliet West's only field goal until there was 2:30 left in the game as the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 35-2 in that stretch.

Kai Moon started the Neuqua Valley run with a layup along the baseline as she scored 10 of her 13 points in that stretch.

Lauren Deveikis scored on a fastbreak layup that put her team up 75-24 with 3:26 left, after which Williams pulled the starters.

"One of the things I think happened early on is we tried doing things by ourselves," Williams said. "We talked about getting back to team ball and we started having some nice passes, cuts and movement on offense. We need to continue to have movement on offense and communication on defense."

Smith led all scorers with 16 points and was one of four Wildcats in double figures: Moon had 13 points, Niki Lazar added 12 points and Bryce Menendez scored 10 points.

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