2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 12/16/2016 11:00 PM

WW South defeats Neuqua Valley, stays unbeaten

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  • Neuqua Valley's Stephen Ruiz (15) attempts to block a pass from Wheaton Warrenville South's Chase Stebbins (12) during the Wheaton Warrenville South at Neuqua Valley boys basketball game Friday.

      Neuqua Valley's Stephen Ruiz (15) attempts to block a pass from Wheaton Warrenville South's Chase Stebbins (12) during the Wheaton Warrenville South at Neuqua Valley boys basketball game Friday.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 
By Stan Goff
Daily Herald Correspondent

In Wheaton Warrenville South's patient, motion offense, the Tigers regularly pass up good shots looking for an even better one.

On Friday at Neuqua Valley, senior forward Jake Ruggles and his teammates used the formula to remain unbeaten on the season. 

Even while scoring just three points in each the first and third quarters, the Tigers knocked down enough big shots -- most of which came in the fourth quarter -- to win 38-28. They improved to 9-0 on the year and 5-0 in the DuPage Valley Conference.

The host Wildcats led 21-18 after three quarters before the Tigers exploded for 20 points over the final eight minutes to pull out the key conference win. A 3-pointer by Drew Healy gave the visitors a 25-23 lead early in the fourth and later Ruggles knocked down a 3 for a 32-25 advantage that all but sealed the outcome.

"I passed it at first because I had a dude closing out on me," Ruggles said of the play that finally allowed the Tigers a little breathing room on a night when points were hard to come by. "So I passed it to Parker (Robinson) but then he passed it back to me. I looked and there was no one there so I shot it and it went in."

Ruggles tallied all 5 of his points in the decisive fourth quarter and also came with 3 steals. It was turnovers in the fourth quarter that helped do the Wildcats in, along with too many second chances allowed to the Wheaton Warrenville South offense.

"We turned it over. We had a lot of weak, soft passes and they exploited us when we turned it over," Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said after his team dropped to 5-4, 3-2. "Our goal is single-digit points in the quarter and they scored 20 in the fourth. The fourth quarter was a disaster. We just completely lost focus.

"We turned it over and we didn't box out. That's completely the game right there. Game, set and match."

The Tigers did not have a player score in double figures on Friday, with Drew Healy and Chase Stebbins leading the way with 7 points apiece. Robinson was next with 6 points and three other players scored 5 points each.

"We felt like we were kind of running in mud a little bit," Tigers coach Mike Healy said. "I thought Neuqua defended us really well. I thought we passed up a couple shots but they're so accustomed to passing up good shots for a better shot and we don't want to mess with the formula. It was a little bit ugly to watch."

But Ruggles' big shot and some big stops on defense were not bad at all for the coach to witness late.

"He had just missed one right before that and he came right back and shot it like he was Seth Curry," Healy said. "That was huge."

Neuqua's Will Stankus scored a game-high 10 points and Blaise Meredith added a trio of 3s to score 9. Connor Gentry of the Wildcats and Dillon Durrett of the Tigers each had 7 rebounds on Friday.

"It's a huge win," Healy said, noting that some of his players were a little down after not playing their best. "We've got to appreciate every win we get. We talked to them and said let's go, be happy."

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