The margin of Neuqua Valley's boys basketball win over Waubonsie Valley was not that expansive, but the coaches' opinions of their teams' performances were miles apart.
Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said the Wildcats' 55-39 DuPage Valley Conference victory in Aurora on Friday was "by far" the best game Neuqua had played. Waubonsie coach Jason Mead called it the Warriors' worst, "not even close."
For the first three quarters, though, it was close. Out of a tight 35-32 contest Neuqua (4-3, 2-1) outscored the Warriors 20-7 over the last eight minutes.
"I thought the intensity was incredible the whole night on defense. I think our rebounding has improved in one week tremendously," Sutton said.
"I think we dominated the boards. I felt we didn't turn the ball over. We took care of the ball, and when you take care of the ball you get extra shots, and you can score points."
Senior Blaise Meredith, busy holding quick Waubonsie Valley sophomore point guard Eric Cannon to 9 points, didn't score a point in the first half. Noah Herdman scored all 10 of his in a first half the Wildcats led 23-22.
Meredith canned his first shot of the third quarter to cap a long set play. He got the Wildcats rolling in the fourth by finishing one of Neuqua's patented inbounds lobs, then drilling a 3 near the top of the key the next time downcourt. He finished with a game-high 15 points.
"Offensively and defensively we picked it up in the second half. We played a lot better. I feel like that's what we're capable of," said Meredith, who along with Alex Filo, Connor Gentry and Will Stankus headed a 33-16 rebounding advantage.
It was not what Waubonsie Valley (3-4, 0-3) is capable of.
"We didn't come out and execute the offense that we wanted to," said Warriors forward Chuck Robinson, limited by foul trouble to 6 points and 4 rebounds. Luke Gregorio led the Warriors with 10 points.
"We weren't doing the little things that need to be done in our offense," Robinson said. "We were just lackadaisical with our movement and not cutting the way we were supposed to be cutting."
Minus an "abysmal" here and an "undisciplined" there, that was pretty much Mead's take on the effort. Coming to the Warriors after five years at Dixon, he cared little that it happened in his first "War of 204."
"It could be Neuqua, it could be Stevenson or it could be Little Sisters of the Poor," Mead said. "If we play like that we're going to lose."